It’s official; George W. Bush has just begun his second term as president of the United States. Hopefully, some requisition clerk has had the foresight to order a four-year supply of body bags and red ink.
We’re faced with over 1,400 days for this administration to continue pursuing its agenda of wars and deficit spending. They’ve been pretty up-front about their economic plans, and now their military plans are receiving heightened scrutiny.
Mr. Bush’s perspective on Iraq holds that all lies, mistakes and misjudgments have been wiped clean as a result of his reelection. In a recent interview with the Washington Post (1/16/05), the following exchange took place:
Q: [In Iraq,] we weren’t welcomed as liberators, as Vice President Cheney had talked about. We haven’t found the weapons of mass destruction as predicted. The postwar process hasn’t gone as well as some had hoped. Why hasn’t anyone been held accountable?
Bush: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 election .. the American people listened to two different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq…and chose me.
Paradoxically, Mr. Bush’s perspective is both wildly inaccurate and entirely legitimate.
According to a Los Angeles Times poll (reported on 1/19/05), "the percentage of Americans who believed the situation in Iraq was ‘worth going to war over’ had sunk to a new low of 39%." The same poll showed that less than a third of Americans felt the United States was winning the war; almost half "believed the war had destabilized the Middle East"; and almost two-thirds of Americans felt that the war in Iraq had damaged our country’s image around the world.
A New York Times/CBS poll (published on 1/20/05) reinforced this negative assessment of Mr. Bush’s Iraq policies: Seventy-five percent of Americans said Bush had no "clear plan" for getting the U.S. out of Iraq, while a majority said that he "routinely exaggerated conditions there."
One can easily conclude that a majority of Americans are doubtful of the rationale for, and outcome of, the war in Iraq - and seem uneasy with Mr. Bush’s performance on that front.
Given all this, Mr. Bush’s attitude is understandable. For the American people to hold these unfavorable opinions and to reelect him anyway is the political equivalent of a "social promotion." Iraq - and the broader issue of national security - was the focal point of the Bush campaign. The American public, therefore, is saying: "Hey, you’ve done a lousy job, and you’re a bit of a liar - but, what the heck, here’s four more years."
If Mr. Bush hears this mixed message as a ringing endorsement, it’s hard to blame him.
Just as it will be hard to blame Mr. Bush when the bombs start falling on Iran.
From a recent New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh: "[A] former high-level intelligence official told me, ‘Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign…’ The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer…The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more…targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids."
According to Mr. Hersh, a number of Pentagon strategists believe that an American attack will result in a "popular uprising" against Iran’s religious leadership. He quotes one consultant as saying, "The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered…the Iranian regime will collapse."
Just as we were welcomed as liberators in Iraq.
Unfortunately, Mr. Bush’s plans don’t stop with Iran: "The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups…to conduct covert operations…in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia."
To hear that Bush & Co. are targeting Iran should hardly come as news to anyone. After all, it is a designated member of the "axis of evil." And - the Bush people have to get it right sometime - there are those weapons of mass destruction. We should also revisit Mr. Bush’s speech from last year: "The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable, and a program is intolerable…they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."
All of this mimics the build-up to the Iraq invasion.
Opinion polls reveal an American public that is confused, indecisive, and unwilling to render judgment on accountability. George W. Bush, on the other hand, believes the 2004 election delivered him a "mandate," a popular affirmation of his militaristic policies.
It’s the perfect recipe for World War III.