President Bush's State-of-the-Union Address featured much crowing about how well things are going in Iraq, with the U.S.-imposed elections now over. Good news or bad, his highly optimistic pronouncements have remained virtually unchanged for the past two years. To give him the benefit of the doubt, the Pentagon was prepared to sustain tens of thousands of American casualties at the time of the invasion. The military was also prepared to spend vastly more money, and continues to argue regularly for "emergency appropriations" to cover these mammoth expenses.
By any objective criteria, however, Iraq has been a cesspool of mayhem. 13 million children there have suffered unimaginable psychological harm. Nearly 1500 American families will never see fathers, mothers, or children again, and new studies have suggested that over 15% of returning troops are suffering from serious psychological damage. Elections aside, why has Mr. Bush been so happy for so long about Iraq?
His supporters have frequently touted honesty as one of his central character traits. One month after September 11, he proclaimed, "Parents should teach their children by word and deed to understand and live out the moral values that we hold, such as honesty, accepting responsibility for our actions, and loving our neighbors as ourselves."
At the White House last August 5, he said, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." Another verbal gaffe? Perhaps it's time to take Mr. Bush at his word. The occasion was the signing of the Defense Appropriations Act, funding the military for fiscal year 2005 and shattering the $400 billion mark for the first time. Given that we have no major military adversaries, and that we now support two Defense Departments (the other is Homeland Security), this is a staggering sum of money. That law represents one of the most successful efforts in our history to transfer wealth from all Americans to thousands of military contractors that are increasingly an extension of Mr. Bush and his Party.
Why were they prepared to sacrifice tens of thousands of American lives, and to spend hundreds of billions in Iraq when their war rationale was so flimsy? What Mr. Bush discussed only obliquely in his State-of-the-Union are all the cuts in funding for early education and ultimately for the Social Security benefits of all Americans. No plan was put forward to care for 11 million American children without health insurance. Instead, hundreds of billions will be siphoned out of domestic programs into new and continuing military operations. Who benefits from all these precious dollars going into Iraq and elsewhere? It's not just the direct transfer of our taxes to these contractors. Elections aside, our Coalition Provisional Authority has permanently locked in American economic dominance in Iraq for years to come.
From this standpoint, Mr. Bush's two years of optimism rings completely true. Of course he's happy with how things are going in Iraq. Another $80 billion is soon headed from us to some of Republican Party's biggest supporters. Every American child and adult will pay $150 this year for Mr. Bush's Iraqi transfer-of-wealth scheme. A hundred thousand Iraqis dead, according to the medical journal The Lancet? The Pentagon refuses to even study the issue. Thousands of devastated American families? Mr. Bush attends none of their funerals, and pays a death allowance of only $12,000 apiece.
So perhaps we should be grateful for moments of candor, like that day last August when Mr. Bush uttered his famous remark, "Our enemies…never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." This brief honesty is so refreshing, when it squeaks out from behind the din of misrepresentations that typify most pronouncements by this Administration--such as the total mis-characterization in Mr. Bush's speech Wednesday night about the financial future of Social Security (For instance, see Prof. Paul Krugman's recent dissection of this dishonesty at http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/printer_020105E.shtml). When it comes to the wellbeing of average Americans, and indeed the current victims of the misuse of American power around the world, this President needs somewhat more education regarding his other utterance, namely the part about "accepting responsibility for our actions, and loving our neighbors as ourselves."