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Staying the course?

By Ramzy Baroud / 10 December 2005

IN A landmark speech before a most friendly audience at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis on November 30, President Bush repeated a familiar mantra. His pronouncements were crafty and political, yet were neither concerned with the plight of Iraqis nor Americans, bogged down in a war that simply cannot be won.

Bush vowed to stay the course, that of "complete victory"; however, his "National Strategy for Victory" — highlighted in his 30-minute speech and devised in a large document made available by his administration — failed to adhere to the most basic rules of integrity, even for a politician. Almost nothing of what the President uttered mirrored the reality of war in Iraq, nor was it intended to. His speech was supposed to be a fantastic comeback after growing criticism among Democrats and anxiety among Republicans, but to a greater extent a desperate attempt to recover some of his faltering approval ratings among the American public, which now stand at 37 per cent, an all time low.

Outrageously, Bush completely dismissed the facts that the Iraqi insurgency is growing into a much more sophisticated and popular resistance, so that even the new Iraqi government is now demanding a timetable for withdrawal.

More, according to the President and his obviously inflated facts — like his inflated, even fabricated intelligence in the past — the US-manufactured Iraqi army comprises 120 army and police battalions and 80 others already in combat beside US and other ‘coalition’ forces in Iraq. "These figures are hotly contested by critics and challenged even by many US commanders who say only a handful of Iraqi units are able to fight on their own," wrote Rupert Cornwell in the Independent.

Yet again, more lies, more wishful thinking and more substandard or rightly fabricated ‘facts’. For what price and to what end? ‘If we pull our troops out of Iraq now, the terrorists will receive a moral boost. The country will fall into civil war. A chaotic Iraq is a threat to US national security,’ are now the new tunes sung in Washington, and also hymned by pro-war Democrats, including our next possible president, Hillary Clinton.   To what terrorists is the president referring? Are they the same terrorists we invented and invited when we decided to unilaterally and illegally take on a sovereign country, to devastate its population and to subjugate it to one of the most mortifying and costly military occupations since World War II?

What civil war does the president and his supporters dread so much? Is it the one which his administration is desperately attempting to craft by pitting — quite successfully — the country’s ethnic and religious groups against one another, pacifying the Shia, debasing the Sunnis and pandering the Kurds, so that a US military presence appears imperative to ‘keep the peace’?

And isn’t it a barefaced scam to justify the continued occupation of Iraq under the proverbial guise of guarding our national security, considering that the Bush administration had worked so laboriously prior to the war to concoct intelligence that would lead Americans to believe that national security is gravely compromised if Iraq is not invaded? If this is how the president is hoping to win back the trust of his people and to salvage his faltering popularity, then I advise him to reconsider.

When I wrote about the possible scenarios resulting from the invasion of Iraq, before the start of the war, I envisaged another Vietnam, an insurgency solely based on local resistance, a very costly war that cannot be won, mounting losses on all fronts, an entire region plagued with instability, a moral boost to those who champion violence as a means of change. I dreaded, yet foresaw a day, where Iraqis, out of desperation, wished for the ‘good old days’, before bombs went off on every street corner, before they lost every aspect of security, before their utter humiliation and was photographed and published in every newspaper worldwide.

It was hardly popular to voice these concerns prior to the two-and-a-half-year war and occupation, but the $6 billion a month war cost, the disheartening statistics coming from the battleground and of polls reported at home, are all causing an awakening. While the complacent media is trying to downgrade the disaster unfolding in Iraq and as most US politicians, as always, are either singing the President’s hymn or refusing to risk voicing dissent, so not to stir controversy or shake the (sinking) boat, some like Representative Jack Murtha still possess the moral courage to speak out, audaciously  and from the heart. 

In his moving Capitol Hill speech on November 17, Rep. Murtha, who served 37 years in the Marine Corps, followed by 31 years in Congress said, "I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid-December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice: The United States will immediately redeploy — immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free, free from a United States occupation. And I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process."

There is no doubt that the president’s speech in Annapolis was in response to Murtha’s outcry. It is thus most unfortunate that the Bush administration insists on resorting to lies and political wizardry to confront one of the most decisive moments in the country’s history. Such thinking has wrought nothing but failure and setbacks in the past. By continuing to subscribe to the same logic, the administration is presenting defeat to the nation as the most probable outcome. 

 Ramzy Baroud, a veteran Arab American journalist, teaches mass communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of PalestineChronicle.com. He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com
 
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