Demolition mission accomplished

Republicans are happy right now. They have something on the Democrats that has consistently kept them ahead of the game. You can hear it from the House of Representatives in D.C. to the House of Pancakes on Route 527 in central Jersey; one of the most effective arguments that certain Americans use in favor of President Bush and his administration is that he is a strong, determined leader that has what it takes to win the so-called “war on terror”.

In this day and age, strong, determined leadership is essential to maintaining the integrity and safety of our nation and that of others. One of our real needs is to be safer than we were three years ago, and although whether or not people do feel safer is a question for the pollsters, if we are actually safer is a matter that should concern all of us.

The purpose of this article is to suggest answers to two questions: are we safer than we were three years ago, and is it because Bush has been a strong leader?


So far, we have invaded and toppled two regimes that at one point were supported financially, politically, and militarily by us: the Taliban thug-ocracy of Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq. Are we safer? Well, 1000 troops have died in Iraq alone, and we are losing the war day by day: the Sunni Triangle, handed over to undertrained and unmotivated Iraqi troops in a most cowardly fashion to avoid having to deal with the resistance ourselves, is now in large part under the control of various insurgents. They are not just Baathist loyalists and foreign terrorists either.

We just had to negociate a truce with the Shiite fighters in Najaf; it is established now that we cannot simply overpower the insurgents because they have formidable support among the diverse peoples of Iraq and they are not going to start liking us anytime soon. Islamic extremist organizations, once suppressed and clandestine in Iraq, are having a recruiter's dream openly signing up Iraqis and people across the Muslim world to fight our troops.

We have betrayed our closest allies in Iraq, the Kurds, by not protecting their rights or acknowledging their tremendous help in toppling Saddam Hussein. The New York Times quoted the situation earlier this year: It's not just that we have been misled by the Americans, said a high-ranking Kurdish official. It's also that they change their position day to day without any focus on real strategy in Iraq. There's a level of mismanagement and incompetence that is shocking.

These are the sentiments of many Kurdish people who have every reason to be supportive of the U.S. efforts in Iraq, people who have wanted independence from Hussein's brutal regime from the time that Rumsfeld shook hands with him. They are also the sentiments of many concerned American citizens, myself included; we feel that in addition to being deceived by the Bush administration, we are putting ourselves further and further at risk for catastrophic consequences by the sometimes outright idiotic and irresponsible decisions made that we as Americans will have to face the consequences for.

Bush has demolished our image throughout the world; public opinion of the U.S. across the world is at an all-time low, especially in the Muslim world. Bush used false information to go to war with Iraq, which at best is a testament to his and his administration's crushing incompetence, dragging us into a war for, apparently, no particular reason at all. It's certainly not about freedom and justice: we had no problem with Hussein's atrocities against his own people when he was cooperating with us, and we certainly didn't hesitate to sell chemical weapons to Iraq so that he could gas and bomb Iranians easier, or to turn around and sell weapons to Iran so that we could make even more money off the deaths of others.

In Afghanistan, where the only significant U.S. forces presence is felt in the still-embattled capital, we have all but left the majority of the country to deal with the Taliban, who are still not defeated and continue murdering civilians daily with impunity, and although Bush wants us to, let's not forget about al-Qaeda and its at-large leader, Osama bin Laden. Think that they are weaker than they were in 2001?

The sad truth is that Pakistan remains unable to control its population's own fundamentalist segment and its burgeoning recruiting efforts on the border, and no one knows what is going to happen if the next assassination attempt on President Musharraf succeeds. There have certainly been enough attempts on his life in a short amount of time to increase the probability of that occurring. The very real possibility that the government of Pakistan, with its nuclear bombs, could soon fall into the hands of Islamic extremists is not a desirable one.

The Middle East and the Muslim world is as volatile as it has ever been, terrorists have as much support and power as they have ever had, and it is not despite the efforts of the Bush administration, it is because of them. The criteria for going to war is basically “if the President wants to” at this point when it should by all means be the last resort, approved by an overwhelming majority in Congress and, if we have common sense, by the rest of the world i.e. the majority of the United Nations.

It is the mark of mental weakness and immaturity to support unilateral policy and to think that the rest of the civilized world wouldn't support a justified war; we had that support for Afghanistan, but not for Iraq, which was and still is a travesty that has exacted the lives of more than 1000 U.S. troops, the vast majority of them young kids who were lied to and paid for our President's mental weakness with their lives (to say nothing of the more than 11,000 Iraqi civilians).

We need to admit before it is too late and more innocents die that this administration, whether accidently or intentionally, is making grave errors that will affect our future for generations to come and has no place being in charge of our government.

One last point: there are seven nations listed on the Congressional Research Service's report on terrorist trends as “state sponsors of terrorism”. It is an insult to all of us that Saudi Arabia, the home base of Islamic fundamentalism worldwide, is not on this list.

In fact, the most active state proponent of Islamic extremism worldwide is lauded by the Bush administration as a great ally of the U.S. in combating terror, when Dick Gannon, former director of operations for the Office of Counterterrorism, observed all the way back in 1998 that “We've got information about who's backing bin Laden and, in a lot of cases, it goes back to the royal family.”

Needless to say, in addition to having backed al-Qaeda in the past, it has funneled monstrous sums of money to Hamas through a variety of seedy charity fronts. What inspires us to invade Iraq, which has no ties whatsoever to al-Qaeda or any Muslim extremist organization for that matter, and then do business (and lots of it) with Saudi Arabia?

I see a strong leader acknowledging that connection, ignoring the fact that Saudi Arabia controls a large portion of our economy, and at the very least imposing serious economic sanctions on that medieval kingdom and supporting reformist efforts within the country. A president who has direct and personal business connections in Saudi Arabia, however, might just sit back and hope that America doesn't notice.

What all this amounts to is that we are not winning any war, not in Iraq, not on “terror”, and certainly not against Islamic extremism, which is unfortunately flourishing because of the ruin that we have inflicted on Iraq. There is no war on terrorism; you cannot, as many have noted, fight a war against a military tactic. What this mobilization of our troops, taxes, and talents actually amounts to is a revenge fantasy for Americans, with lots of people behind the scenes making lots of money and pushing demented agendas.

Many of us are justifying Bush's irresponsible and weak-minded decisions because we feel like somebody, “the terrorists”, be it a 15 year-old Iraqi Christian in the resistance or some dinosaur of a dictator, needs to suffer for September 11th, and we have exhausted the issue of the WTC falling from every angle except the one that matters: why did it happen?

Here's my theory: it happened because America has treated the Muslim world as a colony for the past 100 years and has killed, humiliated, and alienated many, many people. If this at all rings a bell for those who support Bush's foreign policy, perhaps they should rethink the merits of temporarily subjugating a people for whom hatred of America will boil for years. If one in a million of the total number of people we've subjugated in this war becomes a terrorist, it will be more than sufficient to repeat the devastation wreaked by just 19 young individuals on September the 11th.

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