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Nausea in New Yorkby Open-Publishing - Thursday 2 September 2004
By William Rivers Pitt
"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, ’Can you ever win the war on terror?’ Of course you can."
– George W. Bush, April 13 2004
You just can’t make this stuff up.
George W. Bush, in an interview broadcast Monday by the ‘Today’ show, told host Matt Lauer that he doesn’t think his ‘War on Terror’ is winnable. "I don’t think you can win it," said Bush. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."
This is a dramatic departure - one might dare call it a ‘flip-flop’ - from the scores of comments he has made since the attacks of September 11. As recently as July 14, Bush said, “I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror." On April 13th, Bush said, “One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, ’Can you ever win the war on terror?’ Of course you can." The list of comments like this is longer than the Avenue of the Americas.
Someone forgot to get Rudy Giuliani the memo about the Terror War now being unwinnable. "We’ll see an end to global terrorism,’’ he said from the convention podium on Monday night. "It may seem very difficult and a long way off. It may even seem idealistic to say that. But it may not be as far away and as idealistic as it seems.’’
Never mind Rudy’s assertion that Bush “can see through time” in the same speech. Between Bush’s temporal abilities and his armchair-to-armchair relationship with the Almighty, one might have assumed that he’d have stumbled to this wisdom many moons ago. Of course a war against terror cannot be won. Terrorism is a weapon. How do you wage war against a weapon? Shall we next have a war against bazookas and slingshots?
One defeats terrorism by undermining the conditions which breed terrorists. Economic inequality, crushing poverty, shattered educational infrastructures, rampant violence and a total lack of hope are the soil in which suicide bombers germinate. Until you get rid of those, you will always have terrorism. Period.
Bush got part of the way to that conclusion with his statement, alluding to a process that will make terrorism “less acceptable in parts of the world.” His statement was bereft of details on how exactly to go about this, of course, and likewise begs the question: If we’re going to make terrorism less acceptable in “parts” of the world, what other “parts” will terrorism still be acceptable in?
It is too bad that we had to grind through three years, a catastrophic invasion of Iraq, 976 dead American soldiers, almost 7,000 grievously wounded American soldiers, more than 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians and God only knows exactly how many billions of dollars before Mr. Bush arrived at this conclusion.
It is too bad that Bush’s Iraq adventure has created economic inequality, crushing poverty, shattered educational infrastructures, rampant violence and a total lack of hope among the people of that nation. If he has suddenly come around to a new mindset on how to deal with terrorism, he will have to start by cleaning up the terrorist mass-production line he has activated there.
But, of course, he won’t. Soon after Bush’s comment to Lauer, his campaign spokespeople came boiling out of the woodwork to clarify that the President didn’t really mean to say what he said, and that despite his new vision on the matter of dealing with terrorism, there will be absolutely no policy changes in the way the Terror War is being waged. In other words, folks, ignore the Republican candidate. He’s just flapping his lips.
Indeed. The next day, at a Tuesday address to the American Legion, Bush decided to reverse field yet again and declare that we will, in fact, win the War on Terror. Presidential mouthpiece Scott McLellan said, to clarify the previous clarification of the previous clarification, "Not only are we winning it, but we will win it."
It is hard, while watching these guys flop around their own words like boated marlin, to avoid thinking about the thousands of troops deployed in Iraq today. These men and women were told they were leaving home to fight, and perhaps die, in the War on Terror. They left their families with Bush’s promise of inevitable victory ringing in their ears. Now, sitting in that scalding desert, they are being told that they are fighting a war that cannot be won. More than a few of them had already arrived at this obvious conclusion some time ago, but to hear the confused gibberish coming from their Commander-in-Chief must be like a kick below the utility belt.
Hopefully, none of the troops over there were able to watch the coverage of the Republican convention on Monday night. Salted through the audience were a number of conventioneers wearing band-aids with little purple hearts on them. This was, of course, an extension of the gutter war being waged against Democratic candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam record.
Some 3,700 Purple Heart medals have been awarded to soldiers fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom, with more than 3,000 still wending through the process before they can be pinned to the breasts of soldiers missing a chunk of their body. The message emanating from Madison Square Garden is obvious: Not only is the President blitheringly unclear on what is supposedly the central mission of his administration, but his own supporters have nothing but disdain for anyone wounded in combat.
If you think Bush and his White House have nothing to do with that disgusting display on the convention floor on Monday night, and have nothing to do with the Swift Boat Veterans group that appears to have made insulting combat veterans the new hip style among Republicans, think again.
A GOP staffer told Newsweek reporter Elanor Clift this past week that the Swift Boat strategy “came straight from the West Wing,” specifically from Bush hatchet-man Karl Rove. “Nobody,” he said, “should be confused.” The GOP staffer called those who have done this “political terrorists,” stating, “They know what to do - it’s like sleeper cells that get activated.”
In other words, nauseating activities like the Swift Boat smears and the Purple Heart Band-Aid-wearing cretins do not bubble up from the slime of their own accord. This is standard-issue East Texas political assassination, and the smell of it trails all the way from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the doorstep of this Republican convention. This is leadership from the top down, Bush-style.
When your war is a disaster, when your economy is a mess, when your people are out of work by the millions, when the environment is under total assault because of your policies, and when your best pals are pocketing billions of dollars in taxpayer money on the sneak, you’d do well to avoid discussing the issues. Unfortunately for Bush, the manner in which he and his campaign are attempting to change the subject is becoming an issue in and of itself.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - ’War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You To Know’ and ’The Greatest Sedition is Silence.’