Monday, July 07, 2003

Apparently It's Hard to Remember Who's in Charge Here

The headline on this week's column is certainly not what I would have chosen; not that much that's going on in Iraq appears all that comedic. The Time magazine quote is available here; the transcript of McCain's appearance on "Face the Nation" is here; and Adam Felber's entire piece ("Bush Double-Dog Dares Militants to Hurt US Soldiers") is here. There's no easy link to John D. McDonald's remarks, which appeared in the comments to this post on Patrick Nielsen Hayden's site.

East Valley Tribune, Jul. 6, 2003

The head of your federal government is hard at work, according to last week’s Time magazine, searching for those apparently easily overlooked and tough-to-find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

“Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, ‘Are you in charge of finding WMD?’ Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn’t his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. ‘Who?’ Bush asked.”

The guy doesn’t know who’s doing the allegedly most important thing in Iraq, or much care about the fact that the guy actually works in Washington instead, but President Bush sure does know how to move those goalposts closer. We’ve gone from claiming that Iraq represented a mushroom-cloud-imminent threat to the U.S. to announcing the discovery of PFWMD, plans for future
Pretty soon we’ll have the administration claiming that evidence that Iraqi government officials downloaded from the web articles about Bush’s claims about Iraqi WMD justifying preemptive war as the justification for the war. (“Nobody with a clean conscience could possibly have believed that we were telling the truth,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will claim, to appreciative chuckles from the Pentagon press corps.)

Hey, but Iraq is free now, right? Let’s cheer, and certainly not waste any time wondering exactly how free is, say, Saudi Arabia.

Even with the administration’s claims decomposing faster than precursor chemicals in desert heat -- to name three, the claims about imminent WMD threats, that military action had concluded, and that our troops will be home soon -- it’s still hard for some folks to abandon their Iraqophobia. Sen. John McCain appeared last Sunday on “Face the Nation” and opined that finding Saddam Hussein was “very, very, very important . . . . far more important -- in my view, than capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, although that’s important, too.”

As James D. Macdonald pointed out, these priorities make perfect sense because (1) Osama bin Laden attacked the United States, and (2) Saddam Hussein hasn’t.

But the best evidence that we’re in Iraq for only the absolutely best reasons came last Wednesday, when President Bush made clear that the difference between U.S. foreign policy and professional wrestling is that with U.S foreign policy, you get an official transcript.

As reported by Reuters, President Bush “challenged militants who have been killing and injuring U.S. forces in Iraq, saying ‘bring them on’ because American forces were tough enough to deal with their attacks. ‘There are some who feel like that conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring them on.’ ”

As satirist Adam Felber noted, these taunts were made by guy who avoided the draft, had an attendance record for his National Guard service that was (ahem) spotty at best, and who said these brave words thousands of miles from the front lines. Felber bets our troops actually in the line of fire in Iraq enjoyed this White House bravado. If they had worried that they might stop getting ambushed and attacked, or that President Bush might treasure their safety more than a good line, well, they can breathe easy now.

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