George Bush's Private War
Iraq War forum, hosted by Congressman Tom Allen - Portland High School
July 17, 2005
My name is Jean Hay Bright. I am an organic farmer from Dixmont, Maine, and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006.
I share the frustration felt in this room over the Iraq war, a war not of necessity but of choice, a war being waged not to protect us in the United States of America but one waged by the President of the United States to settle some vague personal score.
You may remember that George W. Bush, in Sept. 2002, six month before the invasion, in discussing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said: "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad." The alleged assassination attempt, according to a CNN report, came when the former President Bush visited Kuwait during the Clinton administration.
We all remember that the first President Bush had orchestrated the U.S.-led coalition that pushed the Iraqi army from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. But that first President Bush decided not to press on to Bagdad, because, according to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in a 1992 speech in Seattle, capturing Saddam would not be worth additional U.S. casualties or the risk of getting "bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."
The first President Bush, in response to a question put to him by a student from Springfield, Va., several years ago said:
"Anyway, by the time we finished pushing the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, they were in such bad shape that most of their troops were, in effect, defenseless. The United States does not massacre helpless people simply to prove a point.
Apparently, the second President Bush did not agree with that assessment, or with his father's decision to stop the Gulf War when he did. It looks like George W. Bush decided from the very beginning to define his presidency in terms of Iraq and Saddam, to correct what he saw as his father's mistake and to finish the job his father had started.
"Furthermore, if we had gone into Baghdad to look for Saddam Hussein and to establish a government more favorable to our point of view, two things would have happened. First, our coalition would have shattered, and our Arab friends would have lost their trust in the United States. Second, American troops would have been bogged down in a very dangerous kind of urban warfare, and I was not going to let that happen to our people."
Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, in Ron Suskind's book, "The Price of Loyalty," talked about that focus, which surfaced at a meeting a mere 11 days into George W. Bush's brand new administration.
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," says O'Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.
O'Neill's point was reiterated by Richard A. Clarke, Bush's counterterrorism coordinator, who, according to a Washington Post review, wrote in his book that on the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the attacks on New York and Washington, Bush pulled Clarke and a few aides into a room.
"Go back over everything, everything," Bush said, according to Clarke's account. "See if Saddam did this." "But Mr. President, al Qaeda did this," Clarke replied. "I know, I know, but . . . see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred." Reminded that the CIA, FBI and White House staffs had sought and found no such link before, Clarke said, Bush spoke "testily." As he left the room, Bush said a third time, "Look into Iraq, Saddam."
As time goes on, more and more details, such as the Downing Street memos, are being made public. Those details are serving to reinforce the analytical conclusions, basic understandings, historical perspectives, and, frankly, gut instincts, of so many of us in this room that the Iraq War is George Bush's private war, waged not for the public good, but at great public expense, in terms of our tax dollars, the devastating impact on our federal, state and local economies, at great threat to our homeland security, and at a great cost in the lives of our good military men and women.
I was astonished to hear President Bush claim, as he did in a speech earlier this year, that we are fighting terrorism in Iraq so we don't have to fight it here. So our good military men and women are in Iraq to act as decoys, drawing the fire of terrorists who didn't exist before we got there? Is this why he is seemingly so unconcerned about securing our own borders?
The first step to getting out of this quagmire is to publicly come to terms with the fact that this war was a mistake, and that it needs to end. I know that for many people, admitting that the United States of America was wrong in something this major will be very hard to swallow. But misplaced pride must not be a substitute for moral courage.
The second necessity is to pull our troops out as quickly as possible with as little additional carnage as possible. Last month, seven members of Congress and one Senator offered House Joint Resolution 55, a bill to establish a plan to begin the end of the war in Iraq. The bill, entitled "Homeward Bound," requires the Administration to announce a plan no later than the last day December of this year to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, and to begin bringing our troops home not later than October 1, 2006.
If I were in the Senate now, as I hope to be in 2007, I would sign on to this resolution. I hope and pray that when I get to the Senate in 2007, that this issue will be moot.
Third and finally, I think we need to seriously look at impeachment, of impeaching a president, a vice-president, and a defense secretary for their high crimes of lying to the American people and of waging an unprovoked war of aggression against a sovereign nation that had not attacked us, had not threatened to attack us, and did not have the means to attack us.
This too is a major step for the American people and the U.S. Congress to undertake. But our Founding Fathers, in their wisdom and understanding of human nature and the potential for the misuse of vast power, provided us in our great Constitution with a way of dealing with such abuses of power.
We are looking here at so much more than what the meaning of the word "is" is. As the bumper sticker says, when Clinton lied, nobody died.
Thank you, Congressman Allen, for holding this public forum. And thank you all here for having the courage to voice your concerns. I share with you our hope that together we can make a difference.