Bush Shows No Sign of Learning His Lesson About Pre-emptive War
by Helen Thomas
If President Bush has any grand plan for another pre-emptive war, he had better forget it.
Bush has crashed landed on the fallacy of the invasion of Iraq. It will take time for the self-described "war president" to make a recovery.
It brings to mind an old saying: "Some day they will give a war and nobody will come."
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently delivered a thorough trashing to the U.S. intelligence that nourished administration hawks in their rush to invade Iraq. The senators -- Republicans and Democrats --unanimously rejected the reasons Bush had given to justify his attack.
The panel summed up the U.S. intelligence about Iraq's links with al-Qaida and Iraq's weapons programs as "false, overstated and deeply flawed."
If nothing else, that condemnation should rid Bush of any ideas he may have for other ill-advised pre-emptive wars in the Middle East or for "preventive wars," as they are euphemistically called.
The bad news is that Bush shows no indication that he has learned the lesson.
Earlier this week, Bush told a campaign rally in Marquette, Mich., that "America must remember the lessons of Sept. 11. We must confront serious dangers before they materialize."
This is another indication that he still endorses pre-emptive war. The president's comment also stands as further evidence of the administration's dishonest -- and continuing -- propaganda program aimed at merging the war on terrorism with the war on Iraq.
Days after the Senate committee's report, a British inquiry also found its government intelligence "seriously flawed" in drumming up excuses for the war.
Although the U.K. inquiry absolved Prime Minister Tony Blair of "deliberate distortion" or "culpable negligence," Blair said he assumed "full personal responsibility" for the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, despite his frightening warnings of imminent danger.
Faced with the grim reality that their original public rationales for war have been demolished, Bush and Blair have resorted to a vague feel-good generalization that "the world is better off" without Saddam Hussein in power.
While Blair did a mea culpa, we have yet to hear a similar refrain from Bush.
If it matters at this stage of the game, unprovoked attacks against other nations are illegal under international law and the United Nations charter, which American leaders helped draft after World War II.
Meanwhile, Bush's vaunted "coalition of the willing" -- never much to begin with -- is facing vaporization.
A small troop contingent from the Philippines is pulling out of Iraq at the end of the month to save the life of a Filipino captive held by Iraqi insurgents.
Four countries already have left: Spain, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. Planning to depart soon: Norway, Thailand and New Zealand.
These allies trickle out as the White House and the Pentagon struggle with credibility problems created by their sorry record in truth telling about the war.
One wonders if the administration can ever recover the trust it needs to rally the necessary public support for the war against terrorism.
There are two other institutions that should indulge in serious self-examination.
One is the U.S. news media, which -- generally speaking -- accepted the administration's jingoistic march to war without skepticism.
The other is Congress, which gave Bush a blank check to invade without deeply probing the reasons. The lawmakers should be asked if they still would have voted to go to war, knowing what they know now.
Although popular support for the Iraq war is waning, both Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina -- the presumed Democratic Party standard bearers in the Nov. 2 election -- are playing it politically safe -- too safe.
It's incredible that both continue to defend their pro-war votes in the Senate, instead of saying that they, like the American public, were misled by the Bush administration.
Challengers are expected to make a difference. On the question of the Iraq war, Kerry has passed up a chance to offer voters a choice.
Published on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer