"Why the hell would the Department of Defense be
the organization in our government that deals with the reconstruction
of Iraq?" -- Retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni.
By Bill Gallagher <email@example.com>
Sept. 9, 2003
DETROIT -- President Bush ignored Gen. Zinni's poignant question, along
with many other fundamental issues about the occupation of Iraq, in his
speech Sunday night.
But he did promise to try to snuggle up with the UN and, in a rare moment
of candor, George W. did tell the American people he wanted to charge another
$87 billion dollars to the nation's maxed-out Visa bill and that
Iraq is "the central front in the war on terrorism." He also mentioned
he wants to "engage the enemy where he lives and plans." You would
have to go southwest and east of Iraq to do that. The planning is in Saudi
Arabia, and Osama bin Laden is, by most reports, holed up in a cave-motel
We heard again how much safer the world is because, even if he didn't have
nuclear and other terrible weapons, old Saddam was certainly thinking bout
them. An aside: U.S. experts have now been scouring Iraq longer than UN
weapons inspectors were given to search for Saddam's elusive weapons of
mass destruction. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice urges patience
-- something she never offered to the UN's Hans Blix, an unfairly maligned
and honest man.
And, of course, we hear again the most important reason for the war was
fighting international terrorism. No longer will Saddam Hussein and his
gang be able to work with Osama bin Laden and his murderous operatives in
al-Qaeda. The fact that they never did in the first place doesn't matter.
What the Bush administration sells is the rhetoric of fighting terror. The
reality is another thing.
In every public utterance President Bush has made on the subject over the
past two years, his scriptwriters have included the words, Iraq, Saddam,
terror, al-Qaeda, and references to the Sept. 11 attacks.
While it is a colossal lie to say Saddam had anything to do with the attacks,
the deceitful rhetoric has worked extremely well. A new Washington Post
poll shows 70 percent of the American people believe Saddam Hussein had
a role in the Sept. 11 attacks. The administration successfully sold that
big lie with the help of the compliant, corporate media machine that allowed
the rhetoric to be repeated countless times with hardly a challenge.
That impression of Saddam's role persists, despite the fact that 15 of the
19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the well-planned attacks were financed
through bin Laden's Saudi money-backers.
Even though Bush administration operatives don't claim any evidence that
Saddam had a hand in the attacks in New York and Washington, they refuse
to say that forthrightly, because it would dull the rhetoric and justification
for the invasion of Iraq.
Instead, they continue to focus on remote, incidental and meaningless links
between al-Qaeda and anybody or anything that sounds like Iraq or Saddam.
Of course, the war has opened the doors for al-Qaeda nuts from all over
the world to flood into Iraq, ignite a brutal jihad and kill American troops
everyday. Iraq and al-Qaeda are now very much linked -- the unintended,
but predictable, consequence of the preemptive invasion and anguishing occupation.
It was so easy and convenient to picture Saddam as a demon, put a frightening
face on terrorism, lump all the bad guys together and exploit the average
American's unsophisticated understanding of Middle East violence.
The false impression was deliberate and calculated. Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown
University linguistics professor who has studied Bush's rhetoric, told the
Washington Post, "Clearly, he's using language to imply a connection
between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. There is a specific manipulation of
language here to imply a connection." Tannen notes that Bush seems
to imply that, in Iraq, "we have gone to war with the terrorists who
Years from now, the Saddam-Sept. 11 lie will be viewed as one of the most
successful and dangerous pieces of propaganda and duping of a free people
ever achieved. It is a lasting disgrace for our democratic institutions,
which allowed it to happen, and the media that was, for the most part, a
willing partner in the mass deception.
Gen. Anthony Zinni is the former chief of the U.S. Central Command and,
in that role, he directed all military operations in the Middle East. So
when he unloaded on the Bush administration's handling of post-war Iraq
in a speech to several hundred Marine and Navy officers, military insiders
stood at attention.
Gen. Zinni blasted the Bush administration for failing to develop a strategy
that makes sense, a workable plan and a commitment to provide sufficient
resources to get the job done in Iraq.
"There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together,"
Zinni warned. "We're in danger of failing."
Then the retired general, who was severely wounded in the Vietnam War, raised
the specter that sent shudders through the White House. Speaking to the
officers, many with shared experiences, Zinni raised the harsh question.
"My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the
battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we
saw the sacrifice. I ask you, is this happening again?"
President Bush, whom Gen. Zinni endorsed in the 2000 campaign shortly before
his retirement, sure didn't want to hear that.
Zinni also fears U.S. armed forces are stretched too far and unduly burdened
with the civil reconstruction of Iraq. He says the administration should
have worked earlier and harder to get a UN resolution to get more nations
to provide troops to help in Iraq. Zinni didn't pull punches.
"We certainly blew past the UN. Why, I don't know. Now we're going
back hat in hand."
Getting international cooperation will require a radical transformation
and recognition that the ham-handed policies of the past have created the
quagmire of today.
The president cannot expect multinational participation when he treats other
nations and world opinion with contempt. You don't go swaggering into delicate
diplomacy like a gin-drunk, gun-slinging, Texas cowpoke, demanding cooperation
from other nations.
Bringing in the UN requires shared responsibility, especially in developing
a civilian government in Iraq that will have any chance for popular support
and long-term stability.
The notion that all is well and we are just "staying the course"
is absurd. Former CIA director Stansfield Turner recently wrote an op-ed
piece in the Christian Science Monitor, warning that changing course begrudgingly
and gradually will not work.
"The longer we hesitate to increase our troop strength in Iraq, to
pour billions of dollars of our own money into reconstruction, and to invite
the UN to play a substantive decision-making role, the more the chance of
failure," Turner warns.
George W. Bush still refuses to acknowledge that the stated assumptions
behind the invasion of Iraq were wrong, and his latest proclamation about
the future of Iraq thus has to be weighed with serious doubt.
The former CIA director wrote, "Only the president can declare a change
of course. His acknowledgment that we have made some mistaken assumptions
and are changing direction would help repair our strained relations with
much of the world community."
George W. Bush, as always, chooses hubris over humility and rhetoric over
He refuses to speak the truth to the American people.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks and the costly, deadly and difficult venture won't stop
more from happening.
Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman
who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is
Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com September 9 2003
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