Friday, April 27, 2007

Two Days in the Life of the Bush Administration

As expected, President Bush has said he will veto the war funding bill passed by Congress because it contains a timetable for troop withdrawals. Unfortunately, according to a Yahoo!/AP article, the Democrats will most likely cave and pass legislation funding the war that does not have a withdrawal provision, but may include benchmarks for the Iraqis to meet with corresponding consequences. While I am disappointed the Democrats are going to roll over, I am not surprised.

Bush has lost all credibility as the leader of this country, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Iraq. I have listed the administration's myriad failures in other posts. I could not help but notice, though, that the news the last two days was filled with items (even more than normal) that are quite unflattering for the administration. So, before the Democrats decide against a fight, they might want to consider the following unflattering portrayals of the executive branch that have popped up recently (on top of the six years of deception, bad judgment and failure already amassed):

Human Rights
One of the many and shifting justifications offered for the Iraq invasion by the administration was that the Iraqi people were suffering under an oppressive dictator. Let's put aside for a minute (after all, the media did) the fact that at the time of the Iraq invasion, there were tens, if not hundreds, of world leaders oppressing their people. Bush's basic argument was: Things were bad for the Iraqi people, so we had to save them.

Well, it is hard to make an argument that we have saved them from much, given that so many of them have fled the country, and the citizens left behind face tens to hundreds of civilian deaths daily. But, some might say, at least there is a democratic government in place, and the Iraqis no longer face torture and oppression from their leaders. Apparently, those people would be wrong.

A New York Times article reported yesterday that the United Nations has accused the Iraqi government of "failing to 'seriously address' problems of detainee abuse, including torture, and to ensure the timely and fair prosecution of detainees."

So, if the government is abusing the citizens, the insurgents are blowing them up, and people are leaving the country in droves, what have we done for the Iraqis? How much of our "help" can they survive?

As an aside, why has the mainstream media not picked up the story on the U.N. report? I did a search at Yahoo! News and got no hits for the issue. When I expanded the search to include all news sources (not just Yahoo!), I only got four hits: The Times, The International Herald Tribune (which runs Times content), Voice of America, and the well-known, hard-hitting publication, the Berkshire Eagle.

General Petraeus's Testimony
Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, was in Washington and spoke about his views on the situation. While he opposes the timetables included in the bill passed by Congress, he still made statements that I don't suspect will win him points with the Bush administration. According to a Yahoo!/AP article, Petraeus said that the war "is an endeavor that clearly is going to require enormous commitment and commitment over time" by the United States. He also noted that the "effort may get harder before it gets easier," and the situation is "exceedingly complex and very tough." He admitted that while sectarian killings may have gone down in recent months, the overall level of violence in Iraq has remained largely the same.

In other words, Bush's hand-picked military leader sees a long haul ahead in Iraq with no end in sight. Do you think the American people support that mission? Given the results of the midterm election, it is doubtful.

Tenet Breaks His Silence
Former CIA head George Tenet, now promoting a new book, has spoken out about Iraq for the first time since he left office. Tenet believes that the White House raced to a decision to invade Iraq without considering the consequences and other options. (Yahoo!/AP Article) Tenet also said that his famous "slam dunk" remark referred to a case that could be made that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, not that he actually did, and that the administration twisted the remark to make him a scapegoat. Oh, and he said that someone in the White House leaked his private remark to the press. Now that doesn't sound like the Bush team, does it? Oh yeah, it is exactly what they do, over and over again.

The White House is, of course, saying Tenet just was not aware of all the planning and deliberations that went on. But, the story is a reminder of how badly Bush and his people botched the entire Iraq war issue.

Rice and Russia
The administration demonstrated its lack of sensitivity and ability to communicate with other countries about issues other than Iraq when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reacted to Russia's concern over missile defenses being planned for the Czech Republic and Poland. While Rice is correct that these systems are meant to protect Europe from an attack by terrorists or a rogue state like Iran, and thus pose no threat to Russia, her approach demonstrated her lack of understanding of recent history. Under Bush, the U.S. has botched relations with Russia, pushing the former superpower away, making it hard to gain their cooperation on key issues like North Korea, Iran and terrorism.

The Russians are sensitive about their loss of influence in Eastern Europe. So, a little diplomacy would seem to be in order to make it clear why NATO is taking action. Rice, instead, opted to mock the Russians, saying, according to a Yahoo!/AP article, that Russian concerns were "ludicrous." She said, "Let's be real about this and realistic about this. The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it."

Her attitude is indicative of the problems the Bush administration has had in the world. First, the arrogance of thinking it can impose its will on other countries whenever it wants to with impunity. Second, the lack of understanding they have of the actual situation on the ground. Rice said "Soviet" to describe the Russian defenses. There has not been a Soviet Union in 13 years. It is a choice of word that the Secretary of State of the Unites States of America should not make.

The Secretary of State, who, by definition, holds a position of diplomacy, failed to exercise a minimum of strategic tact. Russian President Vladimir Putin today announced that Russia will now take measures to counter the new NATO missiles, according to a Yahoo!/Reuters article. The Russians are overreacting, of course, but did it have to be this way? Somehow, I feel like if Madeline Albright were still running the State Department, she would have handled the issue better. The row with Russia is just another failure of the administration, and more evidence that it is out of touch with the rest of the world.

Politicizing Government
On the heels of the scandal over the firing of U.S. Attorneys, the Bush administration has now been forced to admit that it conducted briefings for federal employees on the election prospects of Republican candidates, according to a Yahoo!/AP article. Now the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating to see if, among other things, the briefings violated that Hatch Act that bars federal employees from engaging in political activities with government resources or on government time. It is typical of this administration to treat the White House like the headquarters of the Republican National Committee.

Keep in mind, all of these stories emerged in the last two days. The Democrats should make the case to the American people that Bush had six years to demonstrate his competency and ability to run the war on terror, he has failed miserably, and the Democrats elected to Congress will now step in to fill that breach. They should not roll over and, after putting on a nice show and passing legislation to end the war in Iraq, say, "Nice job," and fund Bush's irresponsible enterprise.

Barack Obama was right when he said that we are one signature away from ending the war. I would say that if Bush does not provide that signature, the Democrats should say they are 51 votes in the senate and 218 votes in the House away from ending the war themselves. It doesn't matter how it happens, as long as it happens.

[NOTE: After I published today's entry, I read a Yahoo!/AP article about how an active duty Army officer has criticized the handling of the entire Iraq war. That's a lot of bad news for two days. The administration is under siege. More reasons for the Democrats to stand firm.]