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September 2, 2005

The High Cost of Political Capital

Chris Charuhas

If you’re an average American, the Iraq War will cost you at least $1,000 in taxes. If you’re in the Army or Marines, it may cost you an arm and a leg. Is this war worth it?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at why it was waged, and how it was sold.

Before he was elected president, George Bush Junior said, “(George Bush Senior) had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade (italics mine)…if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

Translation: If I take the country to war, then win a quick victory, the resulting ‘victorious leader’ effect will make it easy to get my domestic agenda enacted.

George Bush Junior saw war not as the unpredictable, bloody tragedy it is, but as a desirable card to be played for political gain.

This Bush’s presidency started with some tweaking of tax policy, a lot of vacation, and low approval ratings. But eight months into his term, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by terrorists. This gave Mr. Bush what he wanted - a chance to be a “war president.”

Ironically, his administration’s slackness and ineptitude helped the attack to succeed in the first place. Despite being warned by the previous administration that a terrorist threat was brewing in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush and his advisors ignored it. Instead of making anti-terrorist plans, they discussed their pet ideas about cementing American military and economic dominance. As a result, they were taken by surprise when the terrorists attacked.

With strong support from his countrymen, Mr. Bush declared war on Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the campaign planned by his Secretary of Defense didn’t include enough troops. Consequently, it was only partially successful. Although it temporarily denied Afghanistan to the terrorists as a base of operations, the small American force was unable to capture or kill the terrorist mastermind.

Then, before Afghanistan had been secured, Mr. Bush and his cabinet began planning for war again. Incredibly, they began pushing for war not against the people who had attacked our country, but against a weak, longtime foe: Iraq.

Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attack, but conquering it fit nicely with the president’s advisors’ long-standing plans to increase U.S. control of world oil supplies. They’d realized that it would take, in their words, a “new Pearl Harbor” to get Americans to sign on to a war for oil, but they never dreamed that a terrorist attack would come along to fill the bill so well.

The Bush Administration got to work exploiting the terrorist attack. For the president and his cabinet, Job One was to make Americans think that Iraq helped the terrorists who attacked them. Job Two was to make Americans think that Iraq would give the terrorists nuclear weapons. Only then would the country be riled up enough to support a war against Iraq.

At first, the Bush Administration tried to find some evidence of Iraqi ties to terrorists and a nuclear program. Not trusting the CIA to deliver the results he wanted, the Secretary of Defense set up a new office to bypass analysts and send raw intelligence data straight to him. But no evidence was found that would justify a war.

The administration’s solution to this problem: lie boldly and often to trump up a threat.

Thus the propaganda campaign began. Mr. Bush and his cabinet members began pumping out lies on TV and in the press. They said that Iraq had nuclear weapons. They said Iraq worked closely with the terrorists. They said our country was in imminent danger of attack by terrorists armed with Iraqi nukes.

None of this was true, and they knew it.

Mr. Bush told the country that Iraq was trying to buy uranium to build nuclear weapons, but his administration had already proven that was false. The CIA sent our former Iraq ambassador to investigate the uranium story. He proved it was false. The administration launched another investigation into the story, which turned up nothing. So, they launched a third investigation, which again showed it was false.

Mr. Bush told the country that Iraq tried to buy aluminum tubes to use in making nuclear weapons, but many experts had already told him that was false. Nuclear engineers from the three top Department of Energy laboratories showed that the tubes in question weren’t suited to making nuclear weapons. The State Department pointed out that the tubes were, in fact, used to make short-range rockets.

Mr. Bush told the country that the terrorist who led the attack had met with Iraq’s president beforehand, but the FBI had already told him this was false. The FBI pointed out that at the time of their alleged meeting, the terrorist leader was traveling from Florida to Virginia – it had his rental car and hotel receipts.

The United States’ closest ally, Great Britain, knew that the Bush Administration was lying to build support for a war with Iraq. After a meeting with Bush Administration officials, Britain’s spy chief reported that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

Right around this time, the Bush Administration was illegally transferring $700 million from the Afghan campaign to pre-position troops and supplies for an attack against Iraq. It was also planning for an invasion of Iraq, primarily by ignoring the advice of anyone with any knowledge of how to successfully invade other countries.

With much of the country convinced that the administration’s false claims about Iraqi weapons were true, Congress transferred its power to wage war to the president. Mr. Bush then moved U.S. forces into position to attack.

Faced with the threat of invasion, the Iraqi president allowed United Nations weapons inspectors to enter his country and look at anything they pleased. The inspectors visited over 300 suspected weapons sites and found nothing like nukes. The inspectors did, however, find some missiles of prohibited range, and Iraq began destroying them.

But Mr. Bush didn’t want to neutralize Iraq. He wanted to invade it. For him, war was a source of political capital. For his foreign policy advisors, war was a chance for the U.S. to control Middle East oil fields. Consequently, he gave the order to invade.

The price of Mr. Bush’s political capital has risen very high. Unfortunately, average Americans are paying it. In dollars, lives, and shattered bodies, his oil war has cost us dearly.

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