The Folly of Righteous Freedom

There is little doubt that George W. Bush is a man who believes deeply in his convictions. In presenting himself to the public and to his subordinates, he carries himself with an air of righteousness. He acts as if he believes angels perch on his shoulders guiding his holy crusade in the name of freedom.

There is nothing inherently wrong in being guided by your convictions. To do otherwise would be nothing less than living a lie. A person’s convictions become dangerous when they are operating under the belief that they are accomplishing nothing but good, but are clearly causing harm. In the case of our esteemed president, the leader of the free world, his deep convictions have led the most powerful country this world has even seen into a festering quagmire in the Middle East. The brash egotism this man and his administration have shown in spreading democracy to Iraq down the barrel of a gun is stupefying. Bush was given the White House in 2000 with hardly a mandate from the people, yet he has seen fit to treat his time in office as if he had no person or institution to answer to other than the almighty.

Raising the spectre of religious conviction is a common theme with President Bush. In his press conference last week, one of only a few he has ever had throughout his entire presidency, he sounded as if he were a pope straight out of the middle ages at times, invoking God almost as justification for going to war in Iraq. Now that his principal reasons — Iraq’s connection to Al Qaeda, stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and an imminent threat to the security of the Unites States — are finally beginning to be seen as the pure fabrications they were, invoking a higher power as justification for the road this country is traveling would seem to be the obvious next step for Bush.

There had always been a debate about the locations of Iraq’s WMD. From the Pentagon, to Langley, to the State Department, to the United Nations, various men and women for years had been trying to resolve this issue, and also resolve the question of whether or not the weapons really existed. In truth, there was no way for anyone outside of the Iraqi power structure to know just what it’s WMD capabilities were, but there was ample reason to believe all sorts of differing information. At the time the White House was planning to go to war, however, any threat Iraq posed appeared to be completely contained. We made that country suffer long and hard for its conduct in Kuwait in 1990 and 1991. But at what turned out to be the premature conclusion to this latest expedition to Iraq, all these questions which had been pondered by outsiders could be directly addressed now that the prevailing power structure in Iraq, that is, Saddam Hussein, had been ousted. There was to be no more debate. The rallying cry came from all directions. “You have the country. Now find the weapons.”

This was not a suggestion. The WMD had become the focus, the main reason for invading a sovereign nation preemptively. Find them, or else justification for a war that has costs thousands of lives evaporates. It is now more than a year later, and it was obvious months ago that GIs in Iraq were going to find nothing but sand and unrest.

It stands to reason that the Bush administration never really believed there were stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. They could also have told themselves their own lie so many times that they actually began to believe they were going to be vindicated after the fall of Baghdad. Another possibility, and I believe this is the likely scenario, is that the Bush administration knew there were no WMD to be found in Iraq, yet they needed what appeared to be a valid reason for the invasion, and WMD was the most useful of the lot mentioned above. What they also believed, and this shows the administration’s continued tendency towards a brutal combination of naïveté and egotism, was that the favorable outcome of the war would so overshadow the lack of WMD that the United States, Iraq, and then the world would overlook the erroneous start to the conflict. Waves of people would line the streets celebrating the overthrow of one of the cruelest tyrants of the twentieth century. A newly freed Iraqi populace would embrace democratic and Enlightenment ideals, would throw off the scourge of ethnic violence that had been decidedly one-sided during the Hussein regime, would rebuild their country and triumphantly reenter the world economy. Most importantly of all, the Iraqis would welcome their new American business partners with open arms. None of this has happened.

Instead, the flimsy coalition the United States assembled is falling apart. (Very shortly the only other country on our side in Iraq will be the British, and there are questions to just how long the people of Great Britain will continue to live with this arrangement.) The infrastructure of the country is still a shambles, despite the gains of construction crews. Uprisings have been the order lately, with hundreds of civilians killed, hundreds of Iraqi insurgents killed at the hands of GI’s, and over a hundred U.S. GI’s killed, this month alone.

The ethnic divisions that typify the people of Iraq are now being enforced with deadly seriousness. Iraq is united in only one thing today: ousting the Americans. Sunnis and Shiites are cooperating to this end, but that won’t last once we leave. They don’t want democracy, they don’t want freedom, and they certainly don’t want to sell us cheap oil. They just want us to leave so they can continue to carve the country and the populace into little bits, and may the best sect win.

This vortex of death that is destroying Iraq is our fault. There is no denying it. Unfortunately, our current administration lacked the foresight to recognize that the current situation in Iraq was a possibility. The lack of serious postwar planning has turned what could have been a more orderly occupation and reconstruction into a continuation of the war itself. We may very well be past the point where the occupation could still be turned towards success. We lack the ability to administer Iraq, and the puppet government we place in power will garner nothing more than contempt from the populace. It will not last. How did we get in this situation?

It all goes back to the righteousness of this administration. It increasingly appears evident that President Bush believes he is performing a mission of faith in fulfilling his duties as president. He believes that he can leave a lasting impression on the history of the world by bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East. He constantly invokes this vision, that what he is doing is for the good of the world, and that protecting the world is equal to, and tied in with, protecting America. Where he got this idea that he has a mandate to spread the word of freedom is beyond me, but if there was a little bird whispering in his ear, I imagine it would look and sound like a certain former CEO of Halliburton. I don’t believe Dick Cheney is the only hegemonist/capitalist out there who sees the Middle East as naught more than dollar signs. The administration is full of these scoundrels who desire empire. President Bush is their wet dream — an experiment in aristocratic genetics that has produced astounding results. That is, a man with almost absolute power who suffers no qualms about using it to further his warped vision of the world. What a mutually productive relationship these men have managed to create.

American business interests aside, they never would have had the chance to plunder Iraq were it not for what Bush brings to the table. Only he could convince himself, despite the pleas of the international community and some members of his own administration, that taking unilateral action against a sovereign nation that posed little or no threat to our own was worth the costs. Yes, Iraq was suffering under Saddam, but there is little doubt that the shifting political climate caused by this war is good for no one in the world, with the possible exception of various terrorist forces. American prestige has been wounded deeply by our overreaching ambitions. We have been ostracized by almost all our friends in the world, and more importantly, in Europe, where American prominence is most important. We let this man carry out his ambitions, and now we get to pay for them, all because President Bush believes he has a righteous mandate from God. Our enemies also believe their actions come with God’s imprimatur. It is too bad this irony is lost on the Bush administration.