September 30, 2003

France, Bush & Drunk Driving

But the more relevant observation about France and other longtime allies that opposed Bush’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq may come from the slogan of the popular anti-drunk-driving commercial: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” The key question may not be whether traditional friends have turned into enemies but whether these U.S. friends were right to counsel Bush against a self-destructive action.

France, Bush & Drunk Driving
By Robert Parry
September 25, 2003

A trendy theme among U.S. pundits and inside the Bush
administration is that French opposition to the
invasion of Iraq has turned France into America’s new

In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, George W. Bush
showed his disdain for France by having Air Force One
serve French toast as “freedom toast,” while Dick
Cheney confronted French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte
with the blunt question: “Is France an ally or an
adversary of the United States?” [Washington Post,
Sept. 23, 2003] New York Times foreign policy
columnist Thomas Friedman penned a recent column
entitled “Our War With France,” which stated “It’s
time we Americans come to terms with something. …
France is becoming our enemy.” [NYT, Sept. 18, 2003]

But the more relevant observation about France and
other longtime allies that opposed Bush’s decision to
invade and occupy Iraq may come from the slogan of the
popular anti-drunk-driving commercial: “Friends don’t
let friends drive drunk.” The key question may not be
whether traditional friends have turned into enemies
but whether these U.S. friends were right to counsel
Bush against a self-destructive action.

Following that analogy, Bush’s putative allies, the
likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, may have
played the role of enablers, the weak-willed friends
who lack the courage to stand up to an inebriated pal
who is staggering toward the driver’s side of the car.
One could argue that France and Germany were giving
Bush the kind of realistic advice that could have
spared the United States the worsening debacle in Iraq
and saved the lives of more than 300 U.S. soldiers.

Still, like the drunk driver who won’t admit that the
accident was his fault, Bush continues to slur facts
and logic, blaming anyone but himself for the
geopolitical pile-up in the desert. Yet, as his
excuses and deceptions become more apparent, the
disconnect between Bush’s words and reality are also
harder to conceal. To walk away from responsibility
for the mess he's made, Bush needs even more enablers,
especially inside the Washington news media.

In an interview with Fox News, for instance, Bush
defended his decision to invade Iraq by still
insisting that his pre-war claims about Iraq’s weapons
of mass destruction were true. He also cited U.N.
resolution 1441 as justification for his preemptive
war even though a majority of the U.N. Security
Council had opposed Bush's decision to enforce the
resolution's disarmament demands through an invasion.

“That’s the resolution that said if you don’t disarm
there will be serious consequences,” Bush told Fox
News anchor Brit Hume. Then Bush added about himself
that “at least somebody stood up and said this is a
definition of serious consequences.” [Fox News
transcript, Sept. 22, 2003]

Inconvenient Facts

But Bush leaves out inconvenient facts, like the
Security Council's demand for more time for U.N.
inspectors to determine whether Iraq had, in fact,
disarmed. There’s also the fact that neither U.N.
inspectors nor U.S. forces on the ground have found
any of the alleged stockpiles of trigger-ready
chemical and biological weapons that Bush keeps citing
as a chief reason for war. But Hume and other news
personalities know when not to contradict the
notoriously thin-skinned Texan.

Still, even as Bush digs in his heels on his
justifications for the death and destruction in Iraq,
other pro-war advocates have begun to adjust their
rationales. One new spin, popular with American
pundits, blames Saddam Hussein for the invasion on the
grounds that he confused the United States about
whether Iraq did or didn't possess weapons of mass
destruction. This new argument claims that Hussein
refused to say that he had gotten rid of his WMD so he
would look tough to his neighbors and that it was this
Iraqi conceit that caused the war.

The problem with the argument, however, is that Iraq
repeatedly did state that it had rid itself of its
chemical and biological weapons. Indeed, Hussein and
his government insisted for months that they were in
compliance with U.N. disarmament demands and
grudgingly agreed to give U.N. inspectors free rein to
examine any suspected weapons site of their choosing.
Hans Blix and other U.N. inspectors were reporting
cooperation from the Iraqis when Bush cut that process
short, claiming that war was necessary to ensure
Iraq's disarmament.

Now, however, some pundits have rewritten this recent
history to claim that Hussein was pretending right up
to the start of the invasion that he still had
chemical and biological weapons. Even supposedly smart
U.S. commentators, it appears, have deadened their
senses with the intoxication of Bush propaganda.

Bush also has continued to cling to his pre-war
arguments about Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda and other
Islamic terrorists as another justification for the
invasion. In the Fox News interview, he was back
linking Saddam Hussein with Ansar al-Islam, which Bush
said was “very active during Saddam’s period – that’s
the terrorist organization.”

But Bush appeared to understand some of the
distinctions that intelligence experts have long
noted, that Ansar al-Islam was actually backed by
Hussein’s Islamic enemies in Iran and was based in
Iraq’s north beyond Baghdad’s control. The Ansar
al-Islam base was actually under the protection of the
U.S. no-fly zone, guaranteeing that Iraqi forces
couldn't have attacked it even if they wanted to.

“And their camp there in the north,” Fox News anchor
Hume said about Ansar al-Islam.

“Yes, it is, northeast,” Bush replied.

Fuzzy Rhetoric

Still, for public consumption, the administration has
continued to fuzz up the alleged relationships between
Hussein’s secular government and these Islamic
fundamentalist groups, all the better to gull the
American people with.

Bush also continues to drop the time element on when
Hussein used chemical weapons (in the 1980s when he
was getting covert support from the Reagan-Bush
administration) and when Hussein disposed of the
unconventional weapons he had left (possibly in the
1990s, according to U.S. intelligence analysts who
have interviewed former Iraqi officials).

“The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to
terror while it built weapons of mass destruction,”
Bush told the U.N. General Assembly in a coolly
received speech on Sept. 23. “It used those weapons in
acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them
when confronted by the world.”

Then, glossing over how he spurned the U.N.’s repeated
appeals to let the inspectors finish up their work in
Iraq, Bush said, “because a coalition of nations acted
to defend the peace, and the credibility of the United
Nations, Iraq is free.”

Bush also baffled some listeners by wrapping his
invasion in the cloak of humanitarianism.

“Events during the past two years have set before us
the clearest of divides: Between those who seek order,
and those who spread chaos; between those who work for
peaceful change, and those who adopt the methods of
gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man,
and those who deliberately take the lives of men, and
women, and children, without mercy or shame,” Bush

These arguments may continue to resonate with some of
Bush's domestic supporters who tend to confuse
gullibility with patriotism. But this rhetoric is
widening the credibility gulf with the rest of the
world, which sees Iraq as not free, but occupied, and
Bush's invasion as not an act of peace, but of
aggression. To much of the world, Bush is the one
spreading chaos and adopting "the methods of

Many U.N. delegates seemed perplexed by Bush’s
strained justifications for an invasion that U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan and many other world
leaders have condemned. Immediately before Bush’s
speech, Annan warned that preemptive war and
unilateralism, two strategies that Bush has embraced,
threatened to destroy more than half a century of
international order and spread the “lawless use of

French President Jacques Chirac made a similar point
after Bush’s speech. “The war, which was started
without the authorization of the Security Council, has
shaken the multilateral system,” he said.

Bitter Irony

To many listening to Bush’s speech, there was bitter
irony, too, in his denunciation of those who kill
civilians “without mercy or shame,” given the
thousands of Iraqis – including many children – who
were killed in the U.S.-led invasion.

During the invasion, Bush even ordered bombing attacks
on civilian targets, such as a restaurant in Baghdad,
in failed attempts to assassinate Saddam Hussein.
Instead of killing Hussein, the bombing of the
restaurant slaughtered men, women and children who
were having dinner. One mother collapsed when she
found her daughters severed head in the rubble. But
Bush has never expressed remorse for these civilian

Nor has Bush apologized for any other Iraqi civilians
killed by frightened American soldiers who often shoot
first and ask questions later. In a recent case cited
by the London Guardian newspaper, three farmers were
killed and two boys, 10 and 12, were wounded when the
U.S. 82nd Airborne Division descended on a farmhouse
in central Iraq during the middle of the night.

"The U.S. military has chosen not to count the
civilian casualties of the war in Iraq," the Guardian
reported. "But while more than 300 U.S. soldiers have
now been killed since the invasion to topple Saddam in
March, thousands more Iraqis have died." [Guardian,
Sept. 24, 2003] Bush has expressed remorse for none of
the carnage.

Instead, Bush has surrounded himself with yes men who
reinforce his self-justifying reality and never tell
him no. Even the alleged moderates, like Secretary of
State Colin Powell, put their careers before any
responsibility to restrain Bush's impulses.

Though Bush may like these go-along pals, his truer
friends may be the world leaders who tried to dissuade
him from his rush to invade Iraq. Indeed, if France
and other U.S. allies had succeeded in keeping the
keys of war away from Bush in March, the American
people and U.S. troops in Iraq might have been spared
a costly adventure that may go on for years and drain
the U.S. Treasury of hundreds of billions of dollars.

But Bush brushed past some of America's oldest friends
and their warnings of danger. He had enough pals and
enablers who helped him climb behind the wheel and
roar off into the fog of war.

So, instead of pouring French wine into gutters and
publishing diatribes about France as the new enemy,
perhaps Americans should ask themselves if they would
have been better off today if they had heeded the
advice from France and other nations, if they had
stopped Bush for his – and America’s – own good.

Posted by richard at September 30, 2003 01:32 PM