The president who cried ‘wolf’
A new terrorist threat has risen in the world, a force so vicious that even al Qaeda has denounced them.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), wants to form a caliphate in the Middle East. They have committed barbaric acts against Christians, Muslims, and others, including beheading and crucifying people and burying others alive. Clearly they must be stopped. The question is, how?
After 9/11, President George W. Bush told us Iraq was a threat to the U.S. This wasn’t true, but he and his cohorts whipped Americans into a state of fear and anger and then lied about how such a war would proceed. Here are some of their statements:
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” Vice-President Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002.
“We know where they [WMD] are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, April 9, 2003.
[When asked about the cost of a war]: “Well, the Office of Management and Budget has come up with a number that’s something under $50 billion for the cost.” Rumsfeld, Jan. 19, 2003
“The [Iraq] war could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” Rumsfeld, Feb. 7, 2003
“I think it will go relatively quickly … (in) weeks rather than months.” Cheney, March 16, 2003
There were many more, but these demonstrate how we were lied into a war that should never have happened and whose consequences were never considered. Many people, including me, knew the invasion was a bad idea. Most Americans now agree with that assessment. Now that we’re facing a different threat, Americans are rightly concerned about being misled into another endless quagmire.
President Obama has laid out a plan for dealing with ISIS. Predictably, many Republicans are screaming that he acted too slowly, or should be tougher, or whatever. When listening to detractors such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remember a few things. First, McCain wanted to arm ISIS. They were one of the rebel groups fighting President Assad of Syria; McCain wanted the U.S. to send them money and weapons. Now McCain is insisting we kill them all. How, he doesn’t specify. He’s also insisting we send American troops into combat again. McCain is all over the place – lots of criticism, no practical suggestions required.
Second, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Kuwait asked for our help. President George H.W. Bush took five months to get an international coalition together. After the coalition was formed, those nations supplied some of the troops and most of the money required to accomplish the goal. Desert Storm succeeded because GHW Bush took the time to do it right in stark contrast to his son. Full disclosure: I was in favor of the first Gulf War.
Obama is now doing the same thing; he’s forming a coalition of nations, including Arab nations, so we don’t have to do this alone. We need Arab nations for several reasons, especially so this doesn’t sink into a Sunni versus Shia battle. We must emphasize we aren’t siding with either faction, but are trying to defeat a very dangerous terrorist group that threatens the whole Middle East, regardless of sectarian beliefs. This coalition will take time, but many Republicans don’t care; criticism is all they can do.
Does the president need Congressional approval for his plans for ISIS? Congress has Constitutional authority to vote for or against war; they don’t need the president’s permission. As usual, many Republicans are dithering around this question. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said, “A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later’…. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
This country is still suffering from the Vietnam War. We’ll be suffering the consequences of the Iraq War for decades to come. We don’t need to get into another war that could potentially cost American lives and treasure without thinking it through carefully. We mustn’t repeat the horrible mistakes Cheney, Rumsfeld, GW Bush and others made in Iraq. We need to resolve this problem in a rational, competent way. If we had had one-tenth of this scrutiny about invading Iraq, that war would never have happened. This time, people are asking questions, and that’s good.
Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist whose column appears every other week. She may be reached at email@example.com.