Three years later, they hope you'll forget the truth

March 14, 2006|By G. JEFFERSON PRICE III

It is nearly three years since President Bush launched a war against Iraq, ostensibly because that country and its leader, Saddam Hussein, presented a grave danger to the security of the United States.

Iraq did not then pose the sort of danger the president said it did, asserting that Mr. Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and suggesting those might include a developing nuclear arsenal. For good measure, he added the fabricated suggestion that Mr. Hussein was somehow tied to al-Qaida and thus to the terrorist attacks against the U.S. on 9/11.

None of that was true. Over and over it's been said - including in this column - that the reasons given for going to war in Iraq were not true. It's important to keep reminding people of that, because Mr. Bush and the men and women in his administration who took us to war want everyone to forget the truth.

They would like us all to forget the moment in May 2003 when the President appeared in full flight costume aboard the USS Lincoln, beneath a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished."

This was after U.S. forces entered Baghdad. The speed with which U. S. troops had reached Baghdad, and the image of Mr. Hussein's statue being torn down in the capital, created a sense of euphoria in which Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the other war leaders found gleeful vindication.

CNN, reporting on the president's stage-managed landing aboard the Lincoln, said that Mr. Cheney watched the event on a television in the White House. "He watched with a big smile," the aide told CNN.

Then, and for many, many months to come, including up to and after the 2004 presidential election, most Americans believed that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld knew what they were doing and that they were doing the right thing.

But now they do not. The truth has overwhelmed Americans, no matter how hard this administration has tried to prevent them from getting it.

Now Mr. Bush is marking this third anniversary with another round of speeches to bolster his handling of the war on terror and the war in Iraq. And it is important for the president to keep trying to convince Americans - and the rest of the world, for that matter - that the war on terror and the war in Iraq are the same.

Yesterday, speaking at George Washington University, Mr. Bush, said, "The stakes in Iraq are high. By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America."

History will judge the accuracy of that prediction. In doing so, it will have to include evidence that the enemy in Iraq today was initially motivated by the U.S. invasion, which provided a target and a magnet of opportunity for all sorts of America's enemies.

Now a civil war is under way in that country, and any day it might escalate far beyond the control of the U.S.-led coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces Mr. Bush insists are getting better and better at their jobs every day.

Listen to the president this month as he speaks of the marvel of elections in Iraq and of "terrorists" who are "losing on the battlefield."

Recall then that even before this war began, the Bush administration was warned that the sort of invasion and occupation it had in mind, with its false causes for war, insufficient troops and ill-planned aftermath, would lead to just the sort of bloody disintegration now under way.

The message has not changed much since the shift from weapons of mass destruction. The president repeated it yesterday. "By helping Iraqis build a democracy," he repeated, "we will gain an ally in the war on terror. ... We will inspire reformers across the Middle East. ... We'll bring hope to a troubled region, and this will make America more secure in the long term."

If those had been the reasons given for going to war three years ago, we would not have invaded Iraq.

G. Jefferson Price III is a former foreign correspondent and an editor at The Sun. His e-mail is

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