What do you do if you’re a tongue-tied, Supreme Court-appointed president of the world’s leading democracy, taking on water from a badly listing economy, battered by runaway corporate corruption in which you and your vice president are leading offenders, and facing a looming budget crisis?
If your name is George W. Bush, you go to war.
You probably thought we were already up to our armpits in the “global war on terror.” We are. But that war seems to be lacking something—like progress. After the initial invasion of Afghanistan, when there wasn’t anything left to bomb or strafe except wedding parties, the public got bored. That Afghanistan’s new puppet leader requires protection by the U.S. military because his own people would kill him also detracts from our “great victory” there. Plus, having that rascal Osama bin Laden still on the loose makes more for embarrassment than empowerment in the polls.
Surrounded by his CEO cabinet and seemingly incapable of fixing the nation’s real problems, a stunning lack of imagination sends Bush the Younger rooting through the skeletons in the closet of Bush the Elder for ideas. And there, just behind an old “read my lips” poster, is a box of videos from the first Bush war against Iraq. For those of you who may not remember Bush’s 1991 Gulf War, dubbed “Desert Storm,” it went something like this. The first President Bush, like his son, was a marginally capable, first-term leader who needed something big to make his mark on history and ensure his reelection. When Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded a minuscule nation located at the head of the Persian Gulf (America’s oil-addiction supplier), the U.S. warhorse was out of the gate and running.
Few bothered to question why we were attacking Iraq when, only a few short years before, with Bush as vice president, we had sided with Iraq in its war with Iran. Instead, we were glued to our TV sets as CNN brought us nightly coverage of huge military buildups on land, sea, and air. Heavy artillery blazed away in the night while our fighter jets streaked over the desert, blasting Iraqi tanks to smoking ruin as phalanxes of U.S. armor raced across the sands. For weeks, burning seas of crude oil filled the atmosphere with dense clouds of toxic black smoke from destroyed oil wells and pipeline facilities as Americans sat hypnotized by the first nose-cone videos of “smart bombs” and cruise missiles following their satellite-guided crosshairs to fiery oblivion down the chimneys of our enemies.
Bush’s popularity leaped to 90 percent during the show, but then the offensive stopped short of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein remained in power. When tens of thousands of our troops started coming home with a panoply of mysterious illnesses dubbed “Gulf War Syndrome” and the economy tanked, something happened that no one had predicted. People forgot George Bush, our great leader and the “hero” of Desert Storm, and produced an unbelievable upset by voting in the former governor of Arkansas, a draft-dodging, sax-playing, lady-chasing Rhodes scholar named Bill Clinton. George Bush and his cabinet of war hawks, meanwhile, went quietly into the black night of political obscurity.
A decade later we get the son, George W. Bush. With all the poking around into the intelligence failures prior to Sept. 11, the questions surrounding Bush and Cheney’s own corporate misdoings, the stock market dissolution, the loss of trillions in investor life savings, and most important of all, the decline in his poll standings, George W. needs a little something to take America’s mind off recent events. While riding high on his post-attack wave of anti-terrorist rhetoric, W. remembered “the one that got away” from his Dad, and labeled Saddam Hussein and Iraq as part of a global “axis of evil” that would have to be dealt with as soon as possible…or as soon as he needed another war to boost his ratings. Which brings us to now. Bush and his dubious posse of evil-busters have cranked up the volume about the vital necessity to remove Hussein from the leadership of Iraq. They talk about “regime changes,” and the vast threat Saddam now poses to us, the world’s sole military superpower, from his kingdom of sand on the other side of the globe. Ironically, they point to Saddam’s former use of chemical warfare as one of the main reasons he must go—all the while conveniently forgetting the part America played in providing Saddam with military intelligence while he was gassing his enemies.
But this isn’t 1991 and the world seems unlikely to give the nod to further American aggression against Iraq. Our allies in the European Union are flat out against what Germany’s chancellor has called Bush’s “adventure.” Similarly, our Arab “friends” in the Persian Gulf seem unmoved by Bush’s war plans and are refusing to assist us as they did during Desert Storm. Given the bloody conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, almost no one thinks more violence in the area is a good idea.
Key Republicans are also weighing in against Bush’s new war. Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to President Ford and Bush the Elder, casts doubt on the wisdom of going to war with Iraq in a recent op-ed column by predicting that such an attack would “seriously jeopardize, if not destroy” Bush’s global anti-terror efforts, and saying “there is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the Sept. 11 attacks.” This follows announcements by House Majority Leader Dick Armey and others who say attacks without provocation are unjustified and claim Bush has so far failed to elucidate convincing reasons for military action.
Make no mistake about it, the “W” in George W. Bush stands for WAR—which is ironic considering this president’s efforts to avoid serving in Vietnam. But if he could pull his head out of the clouds (or wherever it is), Bush might see that this time around, “W” also stands for WHOA!
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.