An Iraq Strategy to Reelect George Bush

by Harry Browne

September 17, 2004         

News flash: President Bush wants to be reelected.

If he fails in that endeavor, it most likely will be because American voters will have rejected him on the very issue he thought was his best asset: his strong leadership in the War on Terrorism.

In case you haven't noticed, things aren't working out as planned in Iraq.

Even U.S. military leaders are starting to talk, and they're saying that the entire Iraqi campaign is a terrible disaster.

Kill 'em!

But why should it be?

After all, the Bush administration has done exactly what so many people have recommended impose overwhelming force to achieve victory. Since 9/11 I've received dozens (perhaps hundreds) of emails from people calling for exactly that. Here's a paraphrased summary of what these emails say:

The only thing the terrorists understand is force. The U.S. should blitzkrieg them with so much force that they realize that their cause is futile. For every one of ours that dies in a terrorist attack, we should kill a hundred of them, without worrying whether the dead were terrorists or innocent bystanders. You can't reason with these people; they don't understand anything but force.

None of the emails revealed that the writers had arrived at their conclusions through actual discussions with terrorists, but no matter. The email writers were joined by a lot of people in the press, radio, and television in their belief that the only answer was overwhelming force.

Force in Action

When four U.S. civilians were killed in Fallujah, Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily said:

It's time to take off the velvet gloves. It's time to stop being Mr. Nice Guy [sic]. It's time to cease worrying about collateral damage.

It's time to show all Iraqis and their brothers and sisters throughout the Middle East that it doesn't pay to mess with Americans. They need to see there is no profit in it. They need to understand we mean business. They need to accept things will never be the same in Iraq. They need to feel the heat. They need to be provided with visible disincentives to further attacks on Americans, free Iraqis and other coalition partners. . . . 

We should not try to gain an international consensus for this action. We should not apologize for it. We should not restrain our Air Force and our artillery batteries from wreaking devastation. We should not expose our ground troops to unnecessary risks.

In other words, we may need to flatten Fallujah. We may need to destroy it. We may need to grind it, pulverize it and salt the soil, as the Romans did with troublesome enemies.

Quite frankly, we need to make an example out of Fallujah.

Here's a chance for justice. Here's an opportunity to show the people of the Middle East it doesn't pay to resort to barbarism and terrorism.

In effect, the U.S. military took Mr. Farah's advice. The city was pulverized. At least 600 Iraqis mostly civilians died in the American attack, which was a reprisal for the deaths of just 4 Americans.

As John Pilger has pointed out, this is no different from when members of the World War II French Resistance (the same "spineless" French that conservatives like to make jokes about) killed or kidnapped a Nazi in occupied towns, causing the Nazis to shoot dozens of innocent Frenchmen in reprisal.

In Iraq the reprisal failed. The Americans eventually had to withdraw entirely from the city, and content themselves with an occasional bombardment. Now the city is run by Islamic emirs and mujahideen who enforce Islamic law strictly. (There probably are quite a few Fallujah residents who would prefer Saddam Hussein to either the Americans or the Islamic emirs.)

But notice the important outcome: once the Americans abandoned Fallujah, so did the news media. We no longer get daily news reports about that city. Few people in the U.S. are aware of what's going on in Fallujah.

How Bush Might Win

The entire Iraqi campaign has been a failure for George Bush.

As is now well known, none of the original accusations against Hussein WMDs, mobile laboratories, uranium from Niger, unmanned planes that could shower biological weapons on America, the aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons turned out to be valid.

And, contrary to expectations, Iraqis seem to mistake American "liberators" for foreign occupiers.

So what should Bush do assuming that he's more concerned about reelection than about the future of Iraq?

As I see it, he has two choices available to him:

Door #1

The first choice is to elevate the force being used against the Iraqi resistance. He can send more troops to Iraq even reactivating the draft, if necessary to acquire enough bodies. In other words, he can keep moving in the direction he's been going.

As we've seen, this hasn't worked out very well, it has produced skepticism even among some of his supporters, and it should now be evident that no amount of force is going to "pacify" Iraq.

Door #2

The second choice is to do what he did in Afghanistan declare victory and withdraw attention from the battleground, taking the country out of the news and allowing people to believe George Bush when he says that all is well.

Afghanistan is a mess. There has been no victory there. But because the President turned our attention to Iraq, no one notices the violent Civil War that rages in Afghanistan.

So Bush could go before the American people in October and say something like this:

My fellow Americans, I have very good news for you. We continue to win the War on Terror. Our latest victory is the liberation of Iraq. The country now has tens of thousands of Iraqi security police, trained by the good men and women of the U.S. military, and the new democratic government of Iraq is able to govern the country peacefully.

In short, we have prevailed just as we thought we would.

Accordingly, we can now begin withdrawing our troops from the country. Today I have ordered the immediate return home of 20,000 American soldiers and marines. The withdrawals will continue in an orderly way, and nearly all the troops will be home by February.

At the request of the Iraqi government, we will maintain six military bases in Iraq in order to protect the country from foreign attack. This will require a token force of 15,000 American troops to remain there indefinitely, but all other American forces will be home by February.

We also have signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to buy all of Iraq's oil production guaranteeing that Iraq will be able to grow, be self-sufficient, and prosper economically.

God bless America, God bless Iraq, and don't forget to vote next week.

Opposition?

Needless to say, there will be voices raised that say this pronouncement is a sham. There is no peace, no liberation in Iraq.

But a majority of Americans will never hear the rebuttals, only the President's claims. After all, there were people in late 2002 pointing out that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was a stupid idea, but their arguments received only a fraction of the news coverage that was given to Bush's claims.

Expecting John Kerry to take apart anything George Bush says is about as realistic as expecting George Bush to keep a campaign promise. And CNN, Fox News, and the broadcast networks will interview plenty of administration sycophants who will congratulate the President on a job well done.

Once the election is over and Bush is safely in the White House for another four years, anything can happen. But Bush will be concerned then about his "legacy," and he may have come to realize that attacking another country could lead to another Iraqi-type disaster. And he may be restrained as well from going back on his word to withdraw American troops from Iraq.

Once the U.S. troops are gone, any killing in Iraq will no longer be big news in America. Iraq will be off the front pages, out of the Evening News, and out of the minds of American citizens. Like Afghanistan, Iraq will be thought of as just one more "victory" in the War on Terrorism.

I can't predict the future. But if I can think of such a ruse, why can't Dick Cheney or Karl Rove?

Let's just say I won't be surprised if George Bush announces in October that victory has been achieved and the troops will be coming home from Iraq.