George W. Bush's, "OOPS!" Problem

by Roger White, early May 03

US Presidents serve four or eight year terms, but they are usually defined by a single act in that period, particularly if it's an infamous act. In the case of Nixon, it was Watergate. In the case of George W. Bush it will be the Iraq War.

What is different about this Iraq War?

The Iraq War had many firsts, but the one I wish to discuss here is how it got started.

George W. Bush did something that hasn't been done since the 1898 Spanish American War: he drug the US into a war without having the enemy make the first aggressive move. He expended enormous effort domestically and internationally to convince Americans, and the rest of the world, that the US should make a preemptive strike against Saddam Hussien's Iraq because Saddam was harboring weapons of mass destruction.

It is now May 9th, three days after George W. Bush officially declared the war over. (And this declaration shows another one of the war's "firsts": He had to make that declaration himself because the US military had so effectively decapitated the Iraq leadership that no Iraqi leader could come forward to surrender the nation.)

Why is the Iraq War an "OOPS!"

The war may be over, but no weapons of mass destruction have been found. We have not seen Iraqi troops armed with chemical weapons, we have not seen Iraqi ammo dumps bulging with chemical munitions, we have not seen Iraqi labs percolating up virulent pathogens, we have not seen nuclear facilities.

We have seen... Nothing! Nada!

The US military is now down to checking out tertiary sites, and hopeful of finding traces of CBN activity. We are to the point where it's going to be very difficult to determine if any subsequent discovery is genuine, or the product of some US emergency "salting". Whatever is found from now on, it's clear that weapons of mass destruction were low priority in Iraq, and not a threat to the US or any other nation.

Why is finding nothing a problem?

The problem is that without CBN evidence, George W. Bush has violated the concept of rule of law. He attacked without reason, and he has become as much a violent rule-breaker as the terrorists who hijacked the planes on 9-11. The 9-11 terrorists "broke the rules" of hijacking by flying those planes into buildings, instead of trying to land them somewhere. GW Bush has "broken the rules" of international law by attacking a neighbor state without good justification. Without solid CBN evidence, he has toppled a government on mere hearsay. Even more important than breaking international law, he has broken an American Moral Precept: American's don't go to war without good reason.

A Nasty combination of Watergate and Opening a Pandora's Box

Domestically, this "small problem" is going to be like the Watergate "small problem." It's starting small, but it's never going to go away, and each time Bush proposes another risky move, the media and others will remind him of Iraq. It's influence will grow steadily with time.

Internationally, the problem is three fold. First, smaller nations will now see the US in a different light; a much scarier light. It now seems that the US military can come crashing down any where, any time, and with only the flimsiest of excuses. Not good... not good... for a country that wants to hold itself up as a shining example to the world, and in particular, a shining example of the rule of law.

Second, now larger states can now follow the US lead. If the US, a pillar of rule of law, can "jump" a medium-size country on mere hearsay, why can't the other larger states do the same? For instance, why should the Russians feel any restraint about reestablishing their influence in central Asia? All they have to do is explain that they are fighting suspected terrorism, just like the US is.

Third, it's going to be harder for other "civilized" nations to call the US their "friend", and stand by the US in upcoming crisis. Without solid CBN evidence, the US has acted like a gangster or a psychotic teenager. Either way, other nations will now have to keep their distance to demonstrate they are not "infected" with equally psychotic thoughts and propensities.

Do the Ends justify the Means?

Whether he intended to, or not, Bush has clearly put the US into the "Ends do justify" camp. This is sad because this is the terrorist camp, too.

Now it is going to take a long time, decades, and a lot of patient convincing to convince the world that "means" really are important in the international scene, and that a world were "means" are just as important as "ends" is really where US citizens, and world citizens, want to be.

All for the lack of some solid evidence. This is Mr. Bush's, "OOPS!"

Mr. Bush's late June reaction to the OOPS problem

23 Jun 03 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush, trying again to explain the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said on Saturday that suspected arms sites had been looted in the waning days of Saddam Hussein's rule.

"For more than a decade, Saddam Hussein went to great lengths to hide his weapons from the world. And in the regime's final days, documents and suspected weapons sites were looted and burned," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

It is believed to be the first time Bush has cited looting to explain the inability of U.S. forces to uncover chemical or biological weapons in Iraq, a US official said.

Bush had previously said weapons may have been destroyed before the war. The US military has been criticized for failing to prevent looting at an Iraqi nuclear facility.

Bush has been widely criticized for misleading the public by asserting that Saddam had stockpiles of unconventional weapons that menaced the world. The allegations were Bush's main justification for bypassing the United Nations and ordering the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"The intelligence services of many nations concluded that he had illegal weapons and the regime refused to provide evidence they had been destroyed," Bush said. "We are determined to discover the true extent of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, no matter how long it takes."

This week, Bush dismissed questions over his reasons for going to war as the work of "historical revisionists."

In his radio speech, he sought to address problems in post-war Iraq, including attacks on US troops and the slow pace of reconstruction.

"American service members continue to risk their lives to ensure the liberation of Iraq," he said, blaming "dangerous pockets of the old regime" and their "terrorist allies" for the attacks.

The US military was combating the threats by hunting down Saddam loyalists and "terrorist organizations."

The United States has provided more than $700 million in humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Iraq, Bush said.

With its allies, it was fixing water treatment plants, boosting electricity supplies and vaccinating children. A $100 million US fund, billions of dollars in recovered Iraqi funds and revenues from oil sales will help pay for reconstruction.

Rumsfeld talks about what I consider to be the source of the OOPS

Rumsfeld: No New Iraq Weapons Evidence Before War

Wed July 9, 2003 11:16 AM ET WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday the United States did not go to war with Iraq because of dramatic new evidence of banned weapons but because it saw existing information on Iraqi arms programs in a new light after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit" of weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light -- through the prism of our experience on 9-11."

Rumsfeld appeared before the committee a day after the White House acknowledged that President Bush's claim in his State of the Union speech that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was based on forged information.

I agree with Mr. Rumsfeld that 9-11 dramatically changed the judgment of American leadership (and American people). 9-11 opened the door for panic actions, and launching this Iraq War, unfortunately, seems to be a text book example of a panic response: doing something rash that seemed like a good idea at the time. (See my article The Great American Panic of the 'OO's)

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