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Gored by the Aging Aurochs

Bush lies to Thomas, us, and maybe himself

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 22, 2006.

Today is immeasurably gloomy. Relatives in the hospital, friends with powder dry tempers and brittle as President Bush yesterday as he blatantly lied to Helen Thomas while trying to rewrite history. For those of you who missed it, among other lies, he said we went to war because Saddam had refused WMD inspectors, except that Saddam did eventually let them in and Bush went to war anyway. Thomas has more chutzpah then the rest of the Media combined. It’s embarrassing to watch an 85-year-old aurochs, knee high to Scott McClellan, bitch slap POTUS, and reduce Bush to trying to out-macho her and having to lie to almost do it. Exhilarating and depressing both.

Bush apparently has been watching the West Wing, where the Republican candidate disregarded his advisors and faced up to his negative issues by holding a long press conference and winning people back. It didn’t work with Bush, because he’s saying nothing new and his stories are now acknowledged as mostly untrue, either by intent or bone-headed stupidity.

And what he is saying isn’t pleasant. He’s now admitting that we’ll be in Iraq for another few years, which anyone with an IQ in three digits has known from the start.

If you haven’t read Cobra II, the new book about the war and early occupation, do so. It’s heavy going in spots – I guess I’ve outgrown the thrill of exciting war stories – but its conclusions are dead on, and for those of you who won’t be reading it, here are some of the facts from it.

First off, it wasn’t a cakewalk into Baghdad. In fact, only great luck and happenstance prevented some real serious numbers of American casualties and actual defeats. It turns out that the fighting was between the US military, our very best, and Saddam’s Fedayeen. These are the standard issue Middle East militants: guys on bicycles and in Toyota pickups with RPG’s and AK-47’s who are terrible shots, undisciplined, but quite brave and dedicated and willing to execute the complicated ambush.

It doesn’t rouse faith in the military to learn how many of our tanks were destroyed and damaged and by what small weapons. It doesn’t look good when Marines and tank crews come quite close to being wiped out despite air power and much better technology. And it’s that technology, those fancy computer arrayed weapons and defense systems that rather unsurprisingly don’t work all that well under stress and don’t seem to actually provide the smooth communications the military, and especially Donald Rumsfeld, thought they would. Sandstorms, for example, shut down everything and remain impenetrable to radar and infrared detections. You’d think we’d know this by now.

It’s perhaps worth noting that President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and John McCain are all veteran pilots. Bush and Rumsfeld, however, never were in combat and even presidential aspirant John McCain – grandson and son of famous admirals, a hotshot warrior and a POW in Vietnam – has almost nothing in common with other vet pilots except that title. The common complaint against the Air Force and their own flyboys by Marines and Army grunts is that pilots fight very personal wars at great distance; they don’t see the torn bodies left by bombs and high altitude strafing of villages at night, and they don’t understand group interactions under common stress and the sort of teamwork that’s required down below.

It’s an open question how much our President and Defense Secretary, despite their vet status, really know about war and how they’re run. Or run well, anyway. Rumsfeld came in saying that the object lesson to avoid was Clinton’s Kosovo and Yugoslav intervention, because the troops are still there and that could go on for years. Rumsfeld came into the Pentagon for a second go as Secretary of Defense with the desire to make all the military like the Air Force: computerized to the nth degree and dealing with highly accurate weapons that would allow our actual fighting units to be smaller and therefore cheaper in the long run. In short, highly lethal but quite small military units on land, sea, air that would go in, win, and get out while civilians would take over. But it seems a lot of this equipment fails easily enough, no surprise to those of us with sedate computers.

Rumsfeld neglected to note that no American troops were killed in Clinton's incursion, that the calming presence of troops has kept the peace, and that international units of law by the UN are messily but surely bringing slugs to justice. Compare and contrast to the abortion that is Saddam’s trial, or the almost complete failure of Ashcroft and Gonzales’ prosecutions against terrorists in this nation under Bush. And now Rumsfeld has to face the fact that his war was, based on American deaths alone, four thousand times worse and this against a military machine that was way below the quality of the Serbs'. We’ll be in Iraq far longer, at far greater risk, at immeasurable expense, to no apparent improvement in our overall safety.