October 25, 2004  


I always find it somewhat amusing, and more than somewhat frustrating, when Republicans I know talk about how the possibility of John Kerry running the War on Terror "scares them." Or how Bush is a real man, who would find his enemies and take them out, like John Wayne. How only Bush can be trusted with defending the country, not the "Jane Fonda" candidate.

(Aside from the incompetent, half-assed way this War on Terror has been fought, I'd certainly like to point out real quick that only one of these men has actually fought America's enemies in combat. Voluntarily, no less.)

The primary argument against the notion that the White House, and Bush in particular, can be trusted to fight the War on Terror can be summed up simply as: Iraq. While there's a pretty lengthy argument to be made as to why the War in Iraq was and continues to be a mistake and a massive distraction, a more specific anecdote has been raised a few times, regarding Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, currently one of the two or three most prominent ringleaders of the insurgency in Iraq (and certainly the most prominent foreign insurgent). Joshua Marshall and Kevin Drum have been on this for a time now, but the Wall Street Journal has provided the most in-depth coverage to date with today's story:
"Senior Pentagon officials who were involved in planning the attack said that even by spring 2002 Mr. Zarqawi had been identified as a significant terrorist target, based in part on intelligence that the camp he earlier ran in Afghanistan had been attempting to make chemical weapons, and because he was known as the head of a group that was plotting, and training for, attacks against the West. He already was identified as the ringleader in several failed terrorist plots against Israeli and European targets. In addition, by late 2002, while the White House still was deliberating over attacking the camp, Mr. Zarqawi was known to have been behind the October 2002 assassination of a senior American diplomat in Amman, Jordan.

But the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn't take place. Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House, until word came down just weeks before the March 19, 2003, start of the Iraq war that Mr. Bush had rejected any strike on the camp until after an official outbreak of hostilities with Iraq. Ultimately, the camp was hit just after the invasion of Iraq began."

Again: The White House, that is George Bush, decided to not attack and attempt to eliminate a man already, at the time, known to be a major terrorist leader. To do so would have weakened the case for an invasion of Iraq, by removing a justification (ignoring the fact that al-Zarqawi was operating in the northern, Kurdish-controlled No-Fly-Zone, where we had more power than Hussein). Time Dunlop has lengthier excerpts from this article - recommended reading.

To date, Zarqawi has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers- total U.S. military deaths are at 1105 as of today - by way of sponsoring, training, and leading insurgents; he's been directly responsible for a few civilian be- headings, including Nick Berg. He's operating in Iraq pretty much at will, and has recently proclaimed his loyalty to Osama bin-Laden; al-Zarqawi previously operated with his own terrorist organization (Jamaat al-Tawhid wa'l-Jihad), rather than as an extension of al-Qaeda.

A rather serious reprecussion, as well, of non-existent post-Invasion planning has been the looting of massive amounts of military-grade explosives by the insurgency.

From the New York Times (registration required):

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24 - The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.

From the Nelson Report, by way of Joshua Marshall:

The Bush Administration barred the IAEA from any participation in the Iraq invasion and occupation process, and blocked IAEA requests to help in the search for WMD and other dangerous materials. As part of the UN sanctions regime still in place when the US invaded, the IAEA had “under seal” 350 tons of RDX and HDX explosives, since singly, and in combination, these materials can be used in the triggering process for a nuclear weapon. However, the explosives were allowed to remain in Iraq due to their conventional use in construction, oil pipe lines, and the like. Since the explosives went missing last year, sources say DOD and other elements in the Administration sought to block the IAEA from officially reporting the problem, and also tried to stop the new Iraqi Interim Government from cooperating with the IAEA.

So terrorists like al-Zarqawi, and isurgents like Muqtada al-Sadr - mind that there's a difference between "insurgent" and "terrorist" - now have greater resources with which to kill American soldiers and, potentially, civilians. All of this due to failures, one after the other, of the Bush administration. An administration that cannot, will not, admit any mistakes whatsoever.

Can you really trust them? Even if you can trust them to make the right decisions - and I can't - do you really trust them to carry those decisions out with competence? Because the track record so far is one of a complete lack of success. And it's not likely to get better, because anyone who can't admit they've made mistakes simply won't learn from those mistakes.


posted by kmmontandon | 4:43 PM
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