By MARC McDONALD
As the U.S. sinks deeper and deeper into the blood-soaked sands of the Iraq quagmire, much of the debate here at home has focused on possible exit strategies from this fiasco. I have to admit, I don't feel confident that the U.S. can formulate a workable exit strategy when in fact we never really had an entry strategy that made sense.
The question remains: why exactly did the U.S. invade Iraq? It's a question that I think the families of the 2,128 dead soldiers are entitled to know. So are America's hard-pressed working-class and middle-class taxpayers, who've been forced to cough up $224 billion so far for this ongoing fiasco.
Ask any Republican nowadays why we invaded Iraq and you'll get a different answer each time. But you can't really blame GOP partisans; after all, their own leader expresses a new reason every day for why the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Bush can't seem to come up with a consistent reason for the Iraq war. One day he's talking about establishing democracy in Iraq. The next day, he blathers about the need to establish "stability" in the Middle East. The day after that, he'll insist that removing Saddam was crucial to bring about a safer world. And, of course, he never fails to once again try to link Iraq and 9/11.
Curiously, though, in trying to defend his war, Bush these days studiously avoids mentioning anything about WMDs---the reason he gave in the first place. Nor does he mention what a growing number of us suspect was the REAL reason for the invasion: so America could control Iraq's oil.
Many analysts believe that Bush found success in the 2004 election because he projected the image of a strong, decisive leader, while John Kerry was painted as a flip-flopper. It's strange then, that Bush in reality has flip-flopped repeatedly on an issue that no national leader should ever be less than decisive and honest about: launching a war.
It's clear that we never really had a good entry strategy for Iraq. The mirage of the non-existent WMDs evaporated quicker than the Bush team could hoist the now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. It became clear early on that the war was based on lies, a fact that even Fox News was eventually forced to concede.
Bush has long condemned anyone who dares question his war as sending "mixed signals" to America's troops in Iraq. Personally, I think what sends "mixed signals" to our soldiers is when our nation's leader gives a new reason for the Iraq invasion every time he speaks. The fact is, Bush's own idiotic ramblings have done more to hurt the troops in Iraq than any comment war opponents have made. After all, it was Bush himself who taunted the insurgents with his "bring `em on" comment.
As far as Bush's ever-changing reasons for why we invaded Iraq, a reality check is in order:
1. To establish democracy in Iraq. Iraq is an ancient tribal-based culture that predates the birth of Christ. If anyone thinks the U.S. can waltz in and impose Western-style democracy at the barrel of a gun, they've been watching too much Faux News. Bush partisans maintain that Iraq now in fact has a "democracy." As for me, I say it's hard to tell what's really going on in a nation engulfed in a bloody civil war. The average Iraqi on the street is too busy dodging bullets and car bombs these days to give much thought to lofty political ideals.
2. To establish stability in the Middle East. Before 9/11, Osama Bin Laden was a marginal figure in the Islamic world. Most educated Islamic people regarded him with a mixture of loathing and downright embarrassment. The bloody U.S. occupation of Iraq has done more to generate hatred toward the U.S. and to radicalize the Islamic world than anything Bin Laden could have accomplished in a thousand years of recruiting for Al Qaeda.
3. To fight the war on terror. When Bush makes this particular statement his "flavor of the day" excuse I can't help but laugh at the dishonesty of it all. But don't take my world for it. Ask the U.S. State Department, which released a report in April that revealed that terrorist attacks worldwide in 2004 tripled over 2003 (which in turn was the worst year for terrorist attacks in two decades). Or ask the former Sept. 11 Commission, which in a report Monday, charged the U.S. government of failing to protect the country against another terrorist attack.
There's an old saying in Texas: "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it'll change." That sounds a lot like Bush and his ever-changing reasons for his war in Iraq. Call me pessimistic, but I get the feeling that the U.S. isn't going to be able to come up with a solid exit strategy from this mess when we never really had a honest entry strategy in the first place.