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Bush Still Ignores Iraq Reality

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As George W. Bush sets out on another speaking tour to justify invading Iraq three years ago, he's still ignoring what should be the chief lesson for any U.S. President: Don't play games with the intelligence, especially on matters of war and peace. You only get good people killed.

Yet, in test-marketing his new P.R. campaign in a March 11 radio address, Bush had his rose-colored glasses firmly back on. In his upbeat assessment, he downplayed grisly evidence that Iraq is sliding toward sectarian civil war, with Shiite "death squads" butchering Sunnis and Sunni gunmen killing Shiites.

He didn't mention how the Iraqi elections have divided - not unified the country - by solidifying the political power of Shiite fundamentalists who have close ties to Iran. Nor did Bush acknowledge that the anti-Americanism engendered by the U.S. occupation has been a boon to al-Qaeda's recruitment and training of a new generation of terrorists.

For Bush, the Iraq glass is always one-tenth full, not nine-tenths empty.

In the week ahead, Bush made clear he intends to deliver another dose of the wishful thinking that led the American people to believe that the conquest of Iraq would be a "cakewalk," a "shock and awe" pyrotechnic display followed by thankful Iraqis showering U.S. troops with candy and flowers.

Distorted History

For this third anniversary of the March 19, 2003, invasion, Bush also has dusted off his old out-of-context history that frightened Americans into believing that Saddam Hussein's tired dictatorship was a grave threat to U.S. national security.

"I strongly believe our country is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power," Bush said in his radio address. "Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was an enemy of America who shot at our airplanes, had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction, threatened and invaded his neighbors, ordered the death of thousands of his citizens, and supported terrorism."

Bush then resorted to a favorite sleight of hand juxtaposing Hussein's supposed support for terrorism with a reference to al-Qaeda's operations inside Iraq, all the better to implant the subliminal connection in the minds of many Americans.

"After the liberation of the Iraqi people, al-Qaeda and their affiliates have made Iraq the central front on the war on terror," Bush said, leaving out the key detail that Hussein's secular government had suppressed al-Qaeda-style Islamic terrorists before the invasion.

But to grasp how misleading Bush's radio address was would require an American citizen armed with a comprehensive knowledge of the history and the politics of the Middle East.

For instance, the American planes that Bush mentioned were flying in Iraqi air space and frequently were bombing Iraqi targets. In other words, Iraq was shooting at war planes over its own territory. But a poorly informed American might not know that, assuming instead that Iraq had attacked U.S. aircraft over neutral or American territory.

A gullible American also might not realize that Hussein developed his chemical and biological weapons during his war with Iran in the 1980s, when he was getting military help from Vice President George H.W. Bush and Mid-East envoy Donald Rumsfeld. [See Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

Bush also left out the fact that U.S. intelligence has since concluded that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were effectively eliminated in the 1990s because of United Nations sanctions and air strikes ordered by President Bill Clinton.

Bush's claim about Hussein invading his neighbors dated back even farther - more than a decade - as did the allegations of mass killings. In 2003, human rights groups reported no Kosovo- or Rwanda-type crisis inside Iraq that would justify a military intervention.

To the contrary, Bush's "preemptive" war - against a country then cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors - unleashed a human rights catastrophe with tens of thousands of Iraqis killed along with more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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