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OH, WHAT A TANGLED WEB BUSH WEAVES
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Oh, What a Tangled Web Bush Weaves

by Eric Margolis

 Published on Sunday, May 25, 2003 by the Toronto Sun

 

U.S. President George Bush justified his invasion of Iraq by claiming Baghdad was behind 9/11 and threatened America with weapons of mass destruction.

To Washington's profound embarrassment, U.S. forces in Iraq have so far failed to find any unconventional weapons or any links between Iraq and al-Qaida. Most Americans don't seem to care their government launched a war of unprovoked aggression based on fabricated evidence and untruths, or that the president and secretary of state repeatedly misinformed and misled the nation.

But now Democrats are accusing Bush of trumping up a war against a nasty but unthreatening Iraq, while failing to combat terrorism, evidenced by last week's bloody terror attacks in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

The White House is trying to deflect rising criticism of its Iraq policy by blaming the Central Intelligence Agency for supplying erroneous information, a ploy originated by former president John F. Kennedy after his Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba. But the CIA was not wrong. The agency repeatedly warned the Bush administration, both privately, through leaks and openly, that Iraq was not a threat, did not possess significant offensive weapons systems, and was unlikely to greet American and British invaders as "liberators."

Where the CIA went wrong was predicting heavy urban fighting in Iraq. In fact, most pre-war military estimates were mistaken. For example, this column predicted a U.S. victory within two weeks. However, the war lasted for three weeks due to unexpected Iraqi resistance that wrong-footed the U.S. offensive.

Most defense analysts, this writer included, foresaw heavy urban combat. But there was only limited city fighting. What happened to Iraq's Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad remains a mystery: they simply vanished or were blown to bits. Guard commanders may have been bought off or gave up when Saddam Hussein went into hiding or was allowed to flee the country - thanks, it is rumored, to a Saudi-brokered deal.

But the CIA was correct in warning the White House and Pentagon that Iraq would turn into a tar-baby for the U.S. This is precisely what is now happening. Iraq is in chaos and near-anarchy. U.S. occupation forces have so far been unable to form even a puppet regime, as was done in Afghanistan.

The initial American-appointed ruler of Iraq, Jay Garner, a retired general who looked more like a building contractor than an imperial viceroy, has been relieved, along with a State Department lady who was bizarrely named mayor of Baghdad. A neo-conservative diplomat has been brought in to run Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.S. firms, led by Texas oil giant Halliburton, VP Dick Cheney's old firm, are fighting like hungry vultures to get a slice of Iraq's petro-wealth.

But America now risks a colonial morass in Iraq that may cost even more than the profits it may make from "liberating" Iraq's oil.

Flexing political muscle

Most ominously, Iraq's Shia majority, long repressed by Saddam's regime, is flexing its political muscle and calling for an Iranian-style Islamic state. Mass graves of Shias executed by Saddam's regime in 1991 are now being cited by the Bush administration as an after-the-fact justification for invading Iraq.

But remember it was George Bush Sr., in 1991, who called on Iraq's Shias and Kurds to revolt, then sat back, watching impassively, as Saddam's forces slaughtered the rebels. Why? Because Bush pere and his advisers rightly feared that if Saddam's minority Sunni Muslim regime fell, Iraq's Shias would take over and align their country with Iran.

Ironically, this may now be happening.

Back to the CIA. Before the war, hawks and neo-conservative supporters sympathetic to Israel's hard right who heavily influence U.S. foreign policy became enraged at the CIA for failing to back their claims Iraq was a deadly threat requiring urgent military action. So they created a special intelligence unit that cherry-picked reports suiting their views, and sent the biased info to the White House and Pentagon. Protests by CIA professionals that the national intelligence function was being politicized and corrupted were ignored.

The special intelligence unit relied on bogus reports from Iraqi exiles and carefully crafted disinformation from Kuwait and Israeli intelligence to provide ammunition for the pro-war party. Much of the data delivered to the White House was erroneous. Unconventional weapons were not found, and Iraqis failed to welcome invading U.S. and British forces, as a well-known neo-conservative female columnist had gushingly predicted, "like French in 1944, greeting their liberators with flowers."

Contrary to Bush's assurances that invading Iraq would end terrorism and make the Mideast a safer, quieter, more democratic place, last week's terror attacks in Casablanca, Riyadh and Israel showed the invasion had sparked more, not less, terrorism and counter-repression, and that anti-American militant groups were gaining, not losing, strength. Palestinian bombings and Israeli intransigence left Bush's "road map" for peace looking more like a dead end.

Early on, Bush vowed to avoid "nation building" and avoid Mideast entanglements. But thanks to his clumsy war on terrorism, his unnecessary invasion of Iraq and his relentless belligerency toward the Muslim world, the Mideast may come to be the nemesis of his administration, just as Iran undid that of former president Jimmy Carter.

Copyright 2003, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc.

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