Re: Maybe Bush Was Right
In his opinion piece in the August 11th Ottawa Citizen newspaper, Robert Sibley makes some strong assertions about U.S. foreign policy in Iraq under the Bush Administration, mostly hinging on speculative possibilities as opposed to research and evidence, and ends his editorial by informing the reader that "maybe it’s not just historians, pundits and Democratic presidential candidates who owe the 43rd president an apology, but the whole world – including Muslims." His piece can be found here:
Before we dismiss the editorial for what it is – laughable – let us evaluate the argument and decide if there is any merit to Sibley’s argument. Among the key points that Sibley suggests (but seldom validates), are;
a) "The situation in Iraq is much improved"
b) "If Bush hadn’t gone to war ‘the consequences would have been truly disastrous’"
c) Bush did not lie or exaggerate claims of WMD’s nor connections between Saddam Hussein and Terrorist groups in Iraq
d) "A semblance of political order has been restored in Iraq"
I will respond to these points in turn. The first assumption that the situation has improved in Iraq begs the question, improved from what? While it is true that the number of Iraqi civilians and security forces killed in July 2008 is estimated at 419, down from 1,690 in July 2007 (according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count), this is still an unacceptable figure. It is more correct to say that the number of civilian casualties is a less horrific number than previously, as opposed to calling it an "improvement." Furthermore, while the modest claim by Iraq Body Count (regularly quoted by media sources) puts the total death toll of Iraqi Civilians at 80,000, UK-based polling firm Opinion Research Business recently concluded that the number of civilian deaths is as high as 1.2 million.
The intent here is not to downplay modest reductions in casualty numbers, nor to dismiss steps towards political stability in Iraq, but to illustrate that no matter how you look at the situation in Iraq, its invasion and occupation by US Forces under the Bush Administration has indisputably been a crime against humanity. To say it is "much improved" isn’t saying much at all.
"If Bush hadn’t gone to war ‘the consequences would have been truly disastrous.’"
Here Sibley quotes historian Arthur Herman, a regular contributor to Republican/conservative news magazine and website National Review, as well as to neoconservative magazine Commentary. The staggering death toll aside, let us consider the perspective of the widely respected and outspoken critic of US foreign policy, professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, Noam Chomsky, who states "You have to give Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz credit. They have created a Shiite-dominated state in Iraq that has close links with Iran and may turn out to be another religious fundamentalist state. They created it – it wasn’t there before." Following this, it is entirely possible that the consequences of intervention may prove to be as great as the consequences of not intervening, which Herman claims would have been significant (although Sibley fails to summarize Herman’s actual argument). Of course, this is all sheer speculation about potential consequences. The only known ones are those which have unfolded and continue to unfold.
Bush did not lie or exaggerate claims of WMD’s nor connections between Saddam Hussein and Terrorist groups in Iraq.
In his first State of the Union address, Bush claimed that "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons known to man." Dick Cheney, not long afterwards declared that there was "no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." But there was ample doubt. Shortly after the conflict began, a report by the Defence Intelligence Agency surfaced which said "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling weapons, or where Iraq has – or will – establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities." The report was initially released in September 2002, and would have been well known to officials making convincing claims of WMD’s in Iraq. There are numerous examples, but all of this is well known by now. Editorials such as Sibley’s overlook the well-documented examples which clearly show that Bush and his administration knowingly lied to mobilize the American people behind an invasion of Iraq. There were also numerous claims of alleged links between the Hussein regime and terrorist networks, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary. Again, examples can be found easily and have been well documented.
"A semblance of political order has been restored in Iraq"
This statement is neither true nor untrue, as it isn’t really saying anything. What is a "semblance?" What constitutes "political order?" Perhaps the most unbiased and honest way we can determine whether US forces have created a stabile political environment is by looking to the actual Iraqi people who live in the occupied country. A February 2008 poll by ABC News, the BBC and other television networks suggests that while Iraqis are optimistic about the future, 61% say the presence of US forces makes security worse in Iraq, while only 27% say the opposite. The figure of 61% is admittedly down from the 72% figure from August 2007, but is still in the majority.
Furthermore, a look at the city of Baghdad reveals that it is hardly a safe political environment. For Barack Obama’s July 21 visit, much of central Baghdad was reportedly shut down to ensure his safety, despite his presence in the Green Zone. There have also been reports, as Patrick Cockburn points out in a recent article, of "US embassy employees in the heart of the Green Zone…ordered not to wear body armor and helmets if they were photographed or filmed standing beside John McCain because their attire might seem to contradict his claim that Baghdad was a safer place than was being reported."
Ultimately, Sibley’s editorial doesn’t add up to much. His claims are easily disputed, and his assertions incomplete or entirely invalid. He ends his article with the preposterous suggestion that the whole world owes George Bush an apology for questioning and criticizing his decisions concerning Iraq. But tell that to the 80,000 to 1.2 million Iraqi civilians who have been killed. Or tell that to the Mothers and families of US soldiers who have been killed in a war fought under false pretenses. What is to be gained from our collective experience of witnessing flawed US foreign policy in Iraq is that we should always question the facts presented to us by our political leaders. Skepticism is healthy in a functioning democracy, and can prevent future debacles such as the one we have witnessed in Iraq over the past few years. To ask skeptics to apologize is not only an outlandish proposition (since they were and are right to be skeptical), it is far worse than that: it is fundamentally undemocratic.