Bush Campaign Lies

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #70: The Invasion of Iraq Represents Progress in the War on Terror 

I'm doing the Bush campaign a favor here, because they actually tell at least 5 lies, and I'm addressing four of them in a single debunking. You're welcome.

These lies are yet another part of the absurdity which is Bush's claimed 'Three Years of Progress in the War on Terror'. For the sake of clarity, I'll simply copy the entire Bush explanation as to why invading Iraq was a Good and Helpful Thing, and highlight in red those parts which are obvious falsehoods. I apologize in advance for the extensive underlining, which appears in the original:

Iraq: Three years ago, the ruler of Iraq was a sworn enemy of America, who provided a safe haven for terrorists, had used weapons of mass destruction, and turned his nation into a prison. Saddam Hussein was a proven mass murderer who refused to account for his weapons of mass murder.
Okay, from the top.

It is simply false to say that 'Saddam Hussein refused to comply' with the UN. He allowed weapons inspectors to return, and although the Iraqi government was perhaps not as forthcoming as they could be, they gave the inspectors unprecedented access to do their job. From Hans Blix's testimony on February 14, 2003:

". . . we note that access to sites has so far been without problems, including those that have never been declared or inspected, as well as to presidential sites and private residences."
A total of more than 300 sites had been inspected at that time. And of course we know now that Saddam didn't actually possess any WMD when the war started, exactly like he told the UN, which means he actually did 'account for his weapons of mass murder'.

Even though it seems certain Bush knew that any evidence of Iraq's WMD was shaky at best, the weapons inspectors who entered Iraq thanks to Saddam's compliance didn't hesitate to offer their own opinions on U.S. intelligence:

"So frustrated have the inspectors become that one source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they've been getting as 'garbage after garbage after garbage.' In fact, Phillips says the source used another cruder word."
Since no weapons have ever been found, the Bush campaign is careful to argue that Hussein had the 'capability of producing' WMD, rather than actual weapons. Which is true, in the sense that I have the capability to set up a meth lab in my garage, even though I don't have the necessary materials or knowledge to do such a thing. Similarly, in early 2003, Iraq was years away from having the 'capability of producing' any dangerous weapons:

Leading figures in Iraqi science and industry, supported by observations on the ground, described factories and institutes that were thoroughly beaten down by 12 years of conflict, arms embargo and strangling economic sanctions. The remnants of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile infrastructures were riven by internal strife, bled by schemes for personal gain and handicapped by deceit up and down lines of command. The broad picture emerging from the investigation to date suggests that, whatever its desire, Iraq did not possess the wherewithal to build a forbidden armory on anything like the scale it had before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The idea that 'Iraq is now becoming an example of reform to the region' is so ridiculous it deserves its own entry.

Now, there is no doubt that there are a number of 'terrorists and foreign fighters' in Iraq taking up arms against our troops and the fledgling Iraqi army. However, the Bush camp is intent on perpetuating the fiction that 'terrorists and foreign fighters' are the major groups responsible for the attacks. The folks we are fighting in Iraq are overwhelmingly Iraqis. In August 2003, GlobalSecurity.org estimated that less than 5% of the resistance was comprised of foreign nationals. In April 2004, the Christian Science Monitor reported:

Far from limited to a small group of "dead-enders" and Saddam "thugs" as Pentagon officials claim, the armed opposition to the US occupation in Iraq has reached the point where some experts say it threatens to become a full-fledged nationalist insurgency.

Bolstered by former Iraqi military and security personnel, today's insurgents are at the least conducting increasingly sophisticated coordinated attacks. In addition, they have built networks to recruit fighters, make weapons, and funnel funds from Iraqi businesses and charitable groups, military experts say.

Perhaps most important, insurgents are now motivated primarily by nationalism and Islam, rather than by loyalty to Saddam Hussein, they say.
Indeed, the Iraqi cleric Moktada al-Sadr has called for a popular uprising on more than one occasion, and commands the loyalty of thousands.

But what's most distressing is that, apparently, the foreign terrorists who are contributing to the violence are starting to gather increasing support from everyday Iraqis:

Worryingly the group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, a Jordanian with links to al-Qa'eda, is no longer a fringe movement but is finding a receptive audience for its message. This month, when heavy fighting erupted on Haifa Street -- a main artery through central Baghdad where the old British embassy is located -- the group's distinctive black flag with a yellow circle suddenly sprang up on balconies and lampposts throughout the neighbourhood.
So stating that we are fighting 'terrorists and foreign fighters' is the truth, but it is far removed from the whole truth.

Finally, there's the Bush claim that as a result of everything we've done, 'the American people are safer'. Well, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that three years ago, Iraq had no serious weapons program, wasn't a breeding ground for anti-Western insurgents, and Saddam Hussein was kept in check by sanctions and two 'no-fly' zones. I'm not suggesting for an instant that this was a good thing for anyone; but in terms of the safety of the American people, there wasn't too much to be worried about. As for Iraq's ties to terrorism, I can't say for certain that they didn't exist, but I can say that the State Department didn't seem too worried about an Iraq/al-Qaeda link.

But let's hear what the experts have to say, shall we?

And then there's always this, from prominent national security journalist James Fallows:

"It is hard to find a counter-terrorism specialist who thinks that the Iraq War has reduced rather than increased the threat to the United States."
Bush partisans can no doubt find their own analysts who insist that the country really is safer, but that conclusion is hardly beyond dispute.

9:56 PM