What a difference a few months can make. In May, the president roared up in a jet, Top-Gun style, to declare Saddam good and whupped. (Note to students: That’s what “hubris” means.) On Sunday, he was looking a lot less like Tom Cruise as he pled for money, patience and help — all in large quantities. No wonder Americans are beginning to ask whether he knows what the hell he’s doing.
As the economy flounders, Bush asked Congress for $87 billion “to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure.” Which left the nation’s taxpayers to wonder, Who’s paying for this?
As David Corn of The Nation writes, Bush’s speech was short on details:
“Bush announced the occupation (and reconstruction in Afghanistan) would cost an extra $87 billion in the coming year — on top of the $79 billion already approved for the war and the occupation through September 30. He offered no explanation of how he would pay for that. He did not say, ‘Sorry, but we’re going to have to ask the major beneficiaries of the latest round of tax cuts — millionaires, investors, and the like — to do with a little less.’ Or, ‘There’s going to be less Medicare coverage for our seniors, but that’s the price of defending freedom.’ Bush vowed he would do ‘whatever is necessary.’ But does that include asking Americans to make any sacrifices (other than those who serve in the military)[?]”
In any case, people are starting to wonder whether Bush is the best guy to be spending all this money. Growing numbers of Americans doubt the administration’s bring-em-on foreign policy is really making them safer. A CNN online poll on Monday found that 69 percent of readers were more anxious than confident about the situation in Iraq after hearing the speech. Not coincidentally, the president’s job approval ratings continue to slide.
Of course, the invasion of Iraq was supposed to make us feel more secure by nabbing and destroying those W.M.D.s Saddam was aiming at us. Hey, what about those? Here, again, is Corn:
“[Bush] did not address the where-are-the-weapons criticism he has received over the past few months. Instead, he hailed his invasion for having overturned a regime that ‘sponsored terror’ and ‘possessed and used weapons of mass destruction.’ Possessed and used, that is, if one looks back to the Iraq of the 1980s (when Saddam Hussein was being courted by the Reagan and Bush I administrations).”
But the weapons weren’t the whole rationale for going in; there was also the matter of Iraq’s ties to international terrorism. Here’s what the president had to say on that score:
“[Our enemies] know that as democracy rises in Iraq, all of their hateful ambitions will fall like the statues of the former dictator. And that is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of killers is desperately trying to undermine Iraq’s progress and throw the country into chaos.
Some of the attackers are former members of the old Saddam regime, who fled the battlefield and now fight in the shadows. Some of the attackers are foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America and other free nations. We cannot be certain to what extent these groups work together. We do know they have a common goal — reclaiming Iraq for tyranny.”
So, “some of the attackers are foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America”? Would these be the terrorists who were so cozy with Iraq before the U.S. invasion (though no proof of this has ever been produced)? Well, if terrorists weren’t tied to Iraq before, they sure are now. The country has become a rallying point for a new jihad. (Afghanistan in the 1980s, anyone?)
As both Corn and Dave Lindorff of Counterpunch point out, the Bush administration’s claim that foreign terrorists in Iraq want to “reclaim Iraq for tyranny” might be a tad simplistic. Lindorff explains:
“Why is Iraq, which previously was not in any way linked to global terror or Al Qaeda, now a ‘terrorism magnet’?
The answer–that the U.S. invasion and occupation, by destroying a central government and by antagonizing Arab nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists everywhere–has made it a cause, is not something that the Bush team wants Americans to think too hard about.”
But give the prez his due. He managed to outsmart the terrorists in one particular. Says Corn:
“Bush may have succeeded in achieving what neither bin Laden nor Hussein could have done: uniting the secular Ba’athists and the fundamentalist Islamic fascists. Iraq has become the frontline because Bush sent in the Marines–and the Army, Navy, and Air Force.”
The president talks about taking the fight to the enemy; but this looks a lot like bringing the enemy to the fight.