Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't Blame George W Bush For the War in Iraq

Democracy is a process by which people are free to choose the man who will get the blame--Laurence Peter, "The Peter Principle"

I wish that Democrats and disaffected Republicans would stop blaming former President George W. Bush for the failed war in Iraq. He may have been the commander-in-chief of our military forces, but that doesn't mean he was personally responsible for a military campaign that so far has cost 4,252 Americans killed, over 31,000 wounded and the squandering of over $700 billion in national treasure.

The reason we should not blame Mr. Bush is that he was actually a minor player among the various factions and personalities that caused us to go to war in March 2003. The major force behind the decision to invade Iraq was a semi-secret organization called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), based in Washington, D. C.

PNAC was formed by arch-conservatives William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Gary Schmitt and others in early 1997. According to Wikipedia, the organization has "exerted strong influence on high-level U.S. government officials in the administration of U.S President George W. Bush and strongly affected the Bush administration's development of military and foreign policies, especially involving national security and the Iraq War."

As early as Jan. 26, 1998, PNAC sent an open letter to then-President Bill Clinton calling for a U. S. ground campaign to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Rebuffed by the Democratic president, the group communicated with his successor on Sept. 20, 2001, advocating "regime change" in Iraq. Mr. Bush, still reeling from the airplane crashes at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center just 9 days prior, was receptive to the group's bold plan.

Seven of the president's closest advisors were supportive of PNAC and in fact some were members of the organization. They included:

Paul Wolfowitz, 64, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 2001-2005. He was one of the persons who signed the PNAC letter to President Clinton, and while a member of the Bush administration developed the doctrine of pre-emption vs. containment. He also reportedly convinced Mr. Bush that a war in Iraq would "pay for itself" through oil revenues.

Richard Perle, 66, Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 2001-2003. He also was a member of PNAC.

Dick Cheney, 66, Vice-President of the United States since 2001. He advocated "regime change," alleging that Saddam had chemical, biological and radiological weapons that were a threat to us. Some say Mr. Cheney considered himself the "co-president" when it came to making decisions because Mr. Bush was unable to do so in the high-stakes atmosphere of Washington, D. C.

Douglas Feith, 54, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, 2001 - 2005. Mr. Feith headed the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, an office that regularly "revised" intelligence estimates provided by career CIA employees.

Donald Rumsfeld, 75, Secretary of Defense, 2001-2006. Rumsfeld, a close associate of Dick Cheney, supported the decision to go to war and argued that mobile, versatile, high-tech units would easily prevail in Iraq. He resigned, in part, because he was criticized as arrogant and incompetent by recently retired generals.

George Tenet, 54, Director of Central Intelligence, 1997-2004. Mr. Tenet supported the theory of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and also told President Bush that a military operation in that country would be a "slam dunk."

Condoleeza Rice, 53, National Security Advisor, 2001-2005. Ms. Rice warned the American public, ominously, of "mushroom clouds" (nuclear explosions) if the United States didn't invade Iraq and kill or capture Saddam Hussein.

Two minor players in the events that led up to the invasion of Iraq were Secretary of State Colin Powell, 70, and his deputy, Richard Armitage, 62. They both argued, unsuccessfully, that an invasion of that country was unnecessary and would, in time, prove counterproductive.

The former president depended heavily on PNAC and his seven key advisors because he was unsure what course of action to take. Nothing in his prior political life had prepared him for such great responsibility. Knowing this, his advisors closed ranks and spoke with one voice about the need to go to war. In the end, the president just nodded and said "okay."

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