He Must Admit the Error of His Ways

How can the president tell us with a straight face that we taxpayers have a patriotic duty to cough up $87 billion more to enable him to sink us deeper into the Iraq quagmire of his making? That's a lot of money on top of the $79 billion already appropriated by Congress in April -- enough to bail out California and every other state experiencing a budget crisis because of economic problems this president has only exacerbated. Shouldn't those who warned against Bush's folly at least qualify for another one of his signature tax rebates?

Once again, Bush is using the Big Lie technique, continuing to slyly conflate those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, although there is no evidence of such a relationship. It is an insult to those who died on that day of infamy to exploit them to defend a failed policy of preemptive war designed by a bunch of think tank neoconservatives as part of a cockamamie plan to remake the Middle East.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of Bush's consistently defensive speech, however, was his naked attempt to turn what has become a security disaster for U.S. troops, United Nations workers and the Iraqi people into a positive situation. He makes it appear as almost a good thing that terrorism is on the rise in Iraq because we've got our enemies where we want them. In claiming that "Iraq is now the central front" in the "war on terror," Bush is heralding a self-fulfilling prophecy: He claimed Iraq was a hotbed of terrorism, and he turned it into one.

And by the way, what happened to the cheering crowds and the gushing oil that the administration predicted would make this a low-cost Mideast liberation venture?

Meanwhile, as Bush boasts of how many irrelevant ammunition dumps we have seized in Iraq, the region is spiraling out of control. Afghanistan is once again falling into anarchy, with the Taliban on the rebound. The Israeli- Palestinian situation is worse after the fall of Hussein, not better as the administration promised. And the mysterious kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains a very suspicious kind of "friend." Let's remember, 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, as well as Osama bin Laden himself, were Saudis.

If there is a linchpin nation for Islamic fundamentalist terror, it remains Saudi Arabia, a fact consistently obscured by the president. Someday we may gain access to the censored portion of the Sept. 11 congressional report dealing with U.S.-Saudi connections. Meanwhile, we can read in the current Vanity Fair about how the White House orchestrated the post-9/11 evacuation of 150 Saudis -- including relatives of Osama bin Laden -- from the U.S. when most flights were still grounded.

It is apparently too much to ask that the president acknowledge his errors, so costly in American and Iraqi lives, and show some humility for this mess he has created with his "my way or the highway" approach. He could also apologize to "Old Europe," which warned him that the invasion of Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror.

But never mind -- while he won't ever admit it, Bush's speech was in many ways an admission of failure. "I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision" to invade and occupy Iraq, Bush magnanimously allowed. "Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties." Translation: We once thought it was Europe and the United Nations' duty to shut up and get out of our way. Now we think it is their duty to hurry up and throw us a rope.

It won't work, though, because those other nations are not led by fools eager to pay for our president's war mongering. What is needed instead is a reappraisal of U.S. policy and a good-faith move to share the leadership role with countries like France, Germany, China, Russia and Japan. If the president, like his predecessors Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, refuses to cut his losses and admit the error of an unwise military adventure, he will be judged and rejected -- as they were -- for wasting American resources and the lives of our young people.

Robert Scheer writes a weekly column for The LA Times.

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