Huffpost Homepage

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Fred Branfman Headshot

Bush Is Endangering Our Lives - 3: Iraq

Posted: Updated:

"I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting Al Qaeda. Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq ... (I told the President), "we have looked several times for state sponsorship of Al Qaeda and not found any real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen."
-- Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

"The cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion, far above the White House's pre-war projections, according to a new study (by) Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes."
-- Reuters, January 10, 2006

If Democrats could penetrate the public's unconscious fear of death with the facts, Mr. Bush would face impeachment for his catastrophic invasion of Iraq alone. From the point of view of fighting "the global war on terror" his decision to attack Iraq - and incompetence in fighting there - has amounted to the single most irrational action ever taken by an American President. His job is to reduce the threat of terrorism. He has geometrically increased it. This is not rhetoric. It is the judgment of Richard Clarke, Mr. Bush's top counter-terrorism chief at the time of 9/11, and is borne out by the facts.

To understand why Mr. Bush is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief and is endangering rather than protecting us, we need to remember the extremely important moment after the Taliban had been chased out of Afghanistan. The still-smoldering World Trade Center was a dramatic example of how badly just a small group of fanatics could hurt America. The one act that would most harm our interests would be to increase the ranks of these fanatics. We faced a long twilight struggle against an enemy we did not understand, and a well thought-out strategy - backed up by careful planning, patiently executed - was clearly necessary.

Although we had many strategic options, there was only one that made no rational sense whatsoever: attacking Iraq. Our top strategic priority was to target Al-Qaeda and reduce terrorist threats against America. Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were sworn enemies, and Al Qaeda had NO presence there, unlike a half-dozen other Muslim countries.

Of course, Saddam was a dictator and there was a case for removing him on the grounds of humanitarian intervention. But there was a far stronger humanitarian cases for intervening in the Congo or Sudan. And even those who wrongly believed Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction", like the CIA, said they posed no immediate threat. A Commander-in-Chief who had even a minimal idea of what he was doing would never have rushed into an ill-planned invasion of Iraq, at a delicate moment when our entire relationship with the 1.2 billion strong Muslim world hung in the balance, and when we had so many other higher strategic priorities.

By rushing into Iraq, therefore, Mr. Bush has spectacularly failed as Commander-in-Chief, strengthening our enemies, weakening us, and endangering all of our lives:

-- Al Qaeda, which did not exist before in Iraq, is now far stronger there. Abu Al-Zarqawi does not pose enough of a threat to America to justify our keeping our invasion force in Iraq. (Though there is a case for continuing police action against him.) But he would pose no threat whatsoever had Mr. Bush not invaded Iraq. And anti-American terrorist forces in Iraq grow stronger every day we remain there.

-- Mr. Bush has alienated public opinion throughout the Muslim world. We are now hated, not merely disliked. Hated. Mr. Bush has thereby not only strengthened Al Qaeda in Iraq, but helping hundreds of allied groups recruit throughout the 1.2 billion strong Muslim world and, as we saw in England and Spain, throughout Europe as well.

-- Mr. Bush has made Osama Bin Laden a hero througout the Muslim world, enjoying far more popularity than the leaders we support (with the possible exception, within Jordan, of its king.) Terrorists succeed by provoking violence from stronger powers to build support for their cause. President Bush has played into Osama's hands, particularly by going into Iraq where Al Qaeda had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

-- Mr. Bush has already wasted over $230 billion in Iraq, and will waste over $2 trillion long term which, had it been spent on sensible hard and soft policies targeting Al-Qaeda and its many congeries, would have actually reduced the threat of terrorism rather than increasing it.

-- Mr. Bush has alienated not only Muslim opinion, but public opinion among our allies and in the entire world. Sympathy for America has evaporated. Our chances of securing support in fighting terrorism have been seriously reduced.

-- Mr. Bush's unbelievable incompetence in fighting the war - not sending in enough troops, disbanding the Iraqi army, failing to provide security against looters and criminal gangs, failing to secure meaningful allied support, failing to properly train our troops or provide them with available protection that could have saved their lives, engaging in torture which increases anti-American fanaticism, failing to maintain the economic infrastructure or reconstruct the country, sending in untrained Republican operatives as civilian administrators - the list is literally endless - has fulfilled Richard Nixon's ultimate nightmare: the U.S. has become a "pitiful, helpless giant", unable to defeat even 25,000 insurgents in Iraq. This fact will embolden our enemies not only in the Middle East but throughout the world, and geometrically increase attacks against Americans in coming years.

Mr. Bush has clearly forfeited the right to serve as our Commander-in-Chief solely on his ability to protect us from terrorism, without even discussing the immorality and illegality of his actions. Historians of this period a century from now, if the human species has survived Mr. Bush's catastrophic neglect of global warming and other threats to the biosphere, will be divided into whole schools of thought debating the mystery of why a Commander-in-Chief who had so clearly failed as of 2005 could still have been allowed to do even more damage without a serious movement for impeachment. But there will be no dispute about one thing: Mr. Bush's catastrophic war-making in Iraq has dramatically endangered the lives of us all.