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It's the President, Stupid
April 16, 2004
By Joe Fields

As George W. Bush awkwardly tried to state his case concerning his administration's policies on the war on terror in a rare press conference, it was clear that he was in full damage control mode. Although the president denied being driven by polls, it was more than a coincidence, in the face of flagging public opinion and pressure by members of his own party, that Mr. Bush chose this week to grace members of the press with his presence.

Given that the president has openly admitted to committing troops to thwart what he ambiguously calls "gathering threats," it is only reasonable to assume that we will be in a perpetual state of war. If he is determined to spread freedom throughout the world, then it is not beyond the realm of possibility to assume we will also, at some point go to war with Syria, Iran or North Korea. Which begs two key questions that Americans must wrestle with:. Is it our god-given right as a nation to impose through military might our principles and the framework of our government on other sovereign nations? And can, or should, Americans accept a perpetual state of war, at the expense of young, vital men and women in uniform, national treasure, and goodwill throughout the community of nations?

There are aspects regarding the president's assessment of progress in Iraq, some covered in the press conference, which bear close scrutiny. It is not hard to understand why the Iraqi people reject a man like Ahmed Chalabi; a man who has not lived in Iraq for fifty years; a man who was handpicked by the U.S. to take control; a man who receives $350,000 per month by our government to feed us disinformation. The backing of such a man by the United States demonstrates either a total lack of understanding of the complex dynamics of Iraq, or a clumsy attempt on the part of the administration to impose a puppet regime. It has been clear for some time that Chalabi is an untenable answer.

For some unexplained reason, the president stubbornly refuses to push back the timetable for handing sovereignty over to an as-yet-undetermined Iraqi authority. The intransigence of the president on this important issue shows a decided lack of good judgement or reason. If a free and stable Iraq is the objective, then a rigid timetable can only stand as a hurdle to meaningful progress in forming a government that all Iraqis can accept.

Another aspect of the Iraq war, which the president discussed, is the level and content of anti-American resistence. It is disingenuous for Bush to characterize the level of resistence by Iraqis as "minimal." It is quite insulting for him to intimate that the attacks on our troops and contractors are being perpetrated by religious zealots, terrorists and rabble-rousers only. While it may be true that the vast majority of Iraqi citizens were grateful to us for removing a cruel dictator, it is no longer the case. With each passing day, as the United States has been unable to clearly articulate our intentions, increasing numbers of Iraqis are taking to the streets. As Bush himself said at the press conference, "No one likes to be occupied."

When you think about the abandonment of our mission in Afghanistan; when you think about the evidence this administration manufactured to go to war; when you think about its cozy reconstruction arrangement with a select group of highly controversial corporations; when you think about the ill-conceived entrance strategy, as well as the total absence of an exit strategy; and when you ponder the quagmire we are in, it is impossible to point to any successes by this administration. As Iraq has now become home to numerous terrorist cells, it has become impossible to say that we are safer, at present, than we were four years ago.

George Bush sent a clear signal that his re-election rests solely on his record of success as a war president. He has to. He has no other option. Bush has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned any substantive discussion with the American public concerning a domestic agenda. But there are no successes by this administration, on either the foreign or domestic front. The face of freedom, which we have so graciously bestowed upon the country of Iraq, looks suspiciously to others like imperial aggression. With smug certitude, Bush plays "Father knows best" with a country that he cannot even come close to understanding.

It may be easier for us to blame Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, or a host of presidential advisors, but the ultimate responsibility for the mess we are in rests squarely on the shoulders of George Bush. For anyone who wonders why we shouldn't allow Bush another four years, there is one succinct rebuttal - it's the president, stupid!

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