Where Is This ‘Safer’ America?

President George Bush says that America is safer because of our war against Iraq. I respectfully disagree.

For one thing, our “shock and awe” campaign has turned into a show and tell of America’s military limitations. We have not been able to defeat the Iraqi resistance, and trying to do so has put a great strain on our military forces. And now the whole world knows it.

Nor have we been able to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. Fifteen months of American occupation and the Iraqis still don’t have full-time, reliable electric service. Evidence of our failure is the fact that Paul Bremer, our proconsul, had to almost surreptitiously turn over the reins to an interim government and practically sneak out of Iraq surrounded by heavy security. No farewell parties for him.

It remains to be seen if the Iraqi people will accept the interim government as anything but an Iraqi face on an American occupation. We, after all, refused to vacate the presidential palace and are using that for our embassy with its ridiculous 1,000-person staff. The occupational authority put great limits on what the interim government could do. And its leader is a man well known to the Iraqis to have been on the CIA’s payroll.

Saddam Hussein, as bad a fellow as he is, was never a threat to the United States. He had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. His army was dilapidated. He was a secular socialist and despised religious fanatics, and they despised him. There was, in fact, no connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, and no connection at all with the attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Bush administration has not been honest with the American people. If you wish to dump all the blame for bad intelligence on the CIA, you can certainly do that. Bush did, but has done nothing to improve the agency. Yet the Bush people certainly exaggerated the situation. They made absurd statements, such as that Iraq could have a nuclear bomb within a year and the laughable claim by Bush that Saddam’s toylike drones might attack the United States. They ignored everyone in the intelligence community who had a different viewpoint.

Whatever motive the Bush administration had for attacking Iraq, the safety of the American people was certainly not the reason. Attacking and occupying an Arab country has done exactly what experts about the area said it would do: It has inflamed anti-American feelings to the boiling point. Bush did exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted him to do, and now terrorists have no trouble at all finding new recruits.

Furthermore, Bush’s obsession with Iraq diverted resources from the hunt for bin Laden and the rest of the Taliban. Consequently, there are two unfinished jobs, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration’s rosy claims about those two countries are as inaccurate as its claims about weapons of mass destruction. There have been more, not fewer, terrorist attacks since the war in Iraq. Warlords financed by opium run Afghanistan, and there is no security at all in Iraq.

Americans should remember not only the 875 (and still counting) dead Americans, the more than 4,000 wounded and the $250 billion (and still counting) cost, but also the tremendous loss of American prestige and respect the country has suffered. In the eyes of the world, this was an unjust and illegal war, and our occupation has been incredibly inept and ineffective.

It was a blunder from start to finish, and it has made the American people less secure, not more secure. More people hate us, and fewer nations are willing to cooperate with us on any international mission.

We have sent a message to our enemies that while we might be able to crush their conventional forces handily, we are no better at fighting a guerrilla war than we were when the North Vietnamese drove us out of Southeast Asia. We have sent a message to the entire Arab world that under no circumstances will we treat the Palestinians with even a semblance of justice and that we will condone whatever Israel chooses to do. Bush has never grasped the fact that the Palestinian issue is paramount in every Arab country.

If you think that makes America safer, then you should apply for a job as a Bush speechwriter.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.