July 13, 2004
Bush keeps defending the indefensible: His reckless, illegal war against Iraq.
In his speech at Oak Ridge, he repeated one of his favorite lines: "I had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman, or defend America."
But that was not the choice he had to make.
Though Saddam was still playing games with the U.N. weapons inspectors, they were allowed to go anywhere and everywhere in Iraq. This was the most intrusive inspection effort of all time, and Bush refused to let it proceed and refused to believe what the weapons inspectors were telling him.
On top of that, the United States, Germany, and Russia were able to fly spy planes over every square inch of Iraqi territory.
So, no, Bush didn't have to take the word of a madman.
He could have taken the word of the U.N. weapons inspectors, but he chose not to.
He could have taken the evidence from the spy planes, but he chose not to.
Instead, he chose to plunge into war for ulterior motives. Some were petty (to get back at Saddam for allegedly trying to kill his daddy, or to clear up the blemish on daddy's record for not "finishing the job" and going to Baghdad). Some were about oil: controlling it, and letting U.S. companies get their hands on it. Some were about geopolitics: hedging a bet against an unstable Saudi Arabia, and eliminating a foe of Israel.
But Bush never has spoken honestly about these motives, and his speech at Oak Ridge was no exception.
He did, however, repeat the claim that "the American people are safer" because of the Iraq War.
That's a hard argument to win.
Former head of counterterrorism Richard Clarke says the Iraq War has made us much less safe. So, too, has Retired General Anthony Zinni, who used to be the Pentagon's commander for that region of the world.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in London, says that the Iraq War has made the world less safe and has served as a "potent global recruitment pretext" for Al Qaeda, whose ranks have grown to 18,000 as a consequence.
U.S. alliances are tattered, and the U.S. reputation in the world is at historic lows.
How does that make us any safer?
Bush can boast all he wants, but his Iraq War is a disaster no matter how you slice it.