Pants On Fire

President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair mounted a major PR campaign this week, touting progress being made in the War in Iraq, hammering at the theme of a “newborn democracy” struggling to survive there, even offering an olive branch of contrition for “mistakes” and “missteps” they made in the prosecution of the war.

What a bunch of hooey.

Two of the most unpopular leaders of the modern age are using what little remains of their bully pulpit to try and convince people the unimaginable amounts of money, resources, and lives wasted in Iraq during the last three years will be worth it, as Mr. Blair put it at a joint press conference on Thursday night, “if we do succeed, then the whole of this global terrorism will suffer a defeat.”

In another joint press conference — held the week after the war was launched in March of 2003 — Mr. Blair said, “our aim is to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and make our world more secure.” Mr. Bush reasserted at yet another joint appearance in July of 2005, “Saddam Hussein was a threat to our security, and a threat to the security of other nations. I take responsibility for making the decision to remove Saddam Hussein, because the intelligence made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to security and peace.”

Precious little there about fledgling democracies or global terrorism.

The fact of the matter is the war started by Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair has done more to increase the incidence of terrorism worldwide than anything Saddam Hussein ever did; Iraq has actually become a terrorist mecca in the past three years.

But hey, what’s done is done, and the international community has a duty now to support the new unity government in Iraq because, as Mr. Blair described on Thursday,

“the reason there is bloodshed and violence in Iraq is that the very forces that we are confronting everywhere, including in our own countries, who want to destroy our way of life, also want to destroy their hope of having the same type of life. In other words, the very forces that are creating this violence and bloodshed and terrorism in Iraq are those that are doing it in order to destroy the hope of that country and its people to achieve democracy, the rule of law, and liberty…I know the decision to remove Saddam was deeply divisive for the international community, and deeply controversial. And there is no point in rehearsing those arguments over and over again. But whatever people’s views about the wisdom of that decision, now that there is a democratic government in Iraq, elected by its people, and now they are confronted with those whose mission it is to destroy the hope of democracy, then our sense of mission should be equal to that and we should be determined to help them defeat this terrorism and violence.”

Talk about creating a need and then acting to fill it…

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are engaged now in a shameless, manipulative exercise to demonize anyone who might suggest they be held accountable for the oceans of blood on their hands, and to brand as enemies of freedom and democracy anyone who might question their leadership.

No right thinking person could come out against democracy and freedom in Iraq; that would be like coming out against sunny afternoons in springtime. But it should not be forgotten that these two men hitched their wagon to the fear that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction he was prepared to use imminently against the United States and his neighbors. They categorically rejected the accusation that the purpose of the war was to remake Iraq, and with it all of Middle Eastern society.

Who knows the real reason we went into Iraq? Whether to avenge Saddam’s attempts to kill Mr. Bush’s father, or because Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair truly believed the flawed intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, or because we just want to control the oil, or because — as we’re now being told — establishing a democracy in Iraq is vitally important to the future peace and security of the entire world, the fact of the matter is we’re on the hook and there’s no wriggling free.

Meanwhile, in other news, today was supposed to be the expiration date for the house arrest order under which democracy advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been confined to her home in Rangoon, Burma with no contact to the outside world since May 30, 2003.

The ruling junta in Burma extended the house arrest order for an additional year, citing fears that Ms. Suu Kyi’s freedom could pose threats to public order, while continuing to reassure the world they are guiding the country back to democratic rule.

Ms. Suu Kyi became the reluctant face of Burma’s democracy movement in the late 1980s and was initially placed under house arrest just prior to the landslide electoral victory of her National League for Democracy in 1990. Since that time she has spent more than 10 years in detention or house arrest and the military junta has refused to acknowledge the will and desire of the Burmese people for democratic government.

For decades Burma has had a reputation as one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes of the modern era.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair had no comment.


  1. Judy - May 27, 2006 @ 7:54 pm

    I couldn´t help but think ,after seeing the B&B news conference gush the other day, not one word was spoken of a peace process . .. to REALLY BRING PEACE TO IRAQ. Like the ETA are doing at this time in Spain. From articles in the EL PAIS newspaper…the ETA process was started in late 2003 in South Africa…yes….and the talks continued in Switzerland this past year and a half…there IS a process for political negociations…
    Sinn Fein also was “inspired” by the process that put an end to apartheid
    in South Africa and has thus led the IRA in their negociations for peace with the British Government.
    The word “withdrawal” is not an option for the B&B plans…then why not talk of a Peace Process for Iraq . Willie Dixon has a blues that says…”without Peace there is no Freedom.”

  2. Michael Herdegen - May 28, 2006 @ 1:44 am

    For decades Burma has had a reputation as one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes of the modern era.

    Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair had no comment.

    You’ve written that, despite what you characterize as “the American installation of Saddam as Iraq’s ruler”, America had no right to correct that wrong, nor any obligation to free the oppressed peoples of Iraq.

    Given that, why do you care more for the Burmese people than those of Iraq, and why should Blair or Bush care, under your stated philosophy of global governance ?

  3. lonbud - May 28, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

    Thanks, Judy, for the reminder that the end game must be peace, if freedom is to be an issue at all.

    Michael, let’s get a few things straight:

    The United States brought Saddam Hussein to power, kept him in power despite his obvious megalomania, and ignored his genocidal proclivities until he started making noise about preferring the Euro as the currency of exchange for oil transactions.

    I don’t believe the U.S. had the right to install him, nor to arm him, nor to use his brutality and megalomania to further our geopolitical interests in the region. And we certainly didn’t have the right to bring him down because we got tired of his act.

    I have no stated philosophy of global governance beyond the general impression that cooperation among nations through a representative body such as the United Nations is probably the best way to aproach global conflicts. Each nation has the obligation to govern itself the best it can.

    However, under your stated philosophy of global governance (he who holds the hammer shall be free to wield it until someone more powerful can stop him), if the U.S. can act to free an oppressed people that never evidenced much of a preference for freedom or democracy, how could we fail to come to the aid of another people with such obvious and powerful yearnings for freedom and democracy as the Burmese?

    Could it have anything to do with the fact that Burma does not sit atop an ocean of crude?

  4. Michael Herdegen - May 28, 2006 @ 10:59 pm


    You begin with “let’s get a few things straight”, and then proceed directly to myth and misperception. Oy vey.

    Well, let’s break this down step-by-step.
    First thing is, Saddam Hussein was a Soviet client, not an American one – the U.S. only helped Iraq, and only in a limited way, after they invaded Iran, who had just held American hostages for over a year, and brought down an American President.

    Further, America was never “in Iraq’s corner”, our stated goal was to balance Iraq against Iran, exhausting both.

    We can continue after you indicate either that you’ve accepted the above, or after you reference something which attempts to prove that Saddam was America’s boy.

    However, under your stated philosophy of global governance […], how could we fail to come to the aid of another people with such obvious and powerful yearnings for freedom and democracy as the Burmese?

    So you’re saying that you wrote the “Pants On Fire” post from my point of view, and have abandoned your previous isolationist stance ?

    I’m flattered.

    [A] representative body such as the United Nations is probably the best way to approach global conflicts.

    Do you mean that accepting bribes from murderous dictators and peacekeepers raping their protectees is your vision for “good global governance” ?

    But I suppose that I should be happy that you’ve come around to endorsing the U.S./UK invasion of Iraq.
    (You want the UN to handle such matters, and given that the UN Security council unanimously voted to allow the U.S. to use force to compel Saddam to comply with UN resolutions, the entire process worked exactly as you want it to – the results were just not what you’d have most-liked).

    Further, given that you’re an avowed pacifist, (albeit one that approves of police officers shooting people – what page of the Pacifist Handbook is that on ?), how do you rationalize endorsing international warfare, as long as the UN says that it’s OK ?

  5. lonbud - May 29, 2006 @ 8:57 am

    The degree of your delusion and your remove from reality astound me, Michael.

    Saddam was an equal-opportunity arms trader, but the Soviets realized there wasn’t much in it for them once he started executing Iraqi communists.

    He was, however, from the beginning to the end, America’s boy in the Middle East. We backed his rise to power and helped keep him there through the years with arms, money, advisers, satellite intelligence, and precursors to biological and chemical weapons. Here’s a little primer for you.

    I didn’t write the post from your point of view, I wrote it to expose the cynicism and inconsistency of your point of view. I don’t argue the U.S. should have invaded Burma, I’m arguing that without having invaded Burma you have no leg to stand on in justifying the invasion of Iraq as a mission to spread freedom and promote democracy.

    I don’t endorse international warfare. And the U.N. never passed a resolution to allow the U.S. to use military force against Iraq.

    Why must you resort to lies and misappropriations of fact to support your bellicosity?

  6. Butler Crittenden - May 31, 2006 @ 9:17 am

    As usual, Lonnie is right and Herdegen is full of crap. Enough to make one wonder if there is any value at all to bothering to educate such people. A waste of either Mommy and Daddy’s bucks or the states’. Gives new meaning to “ignorance is bliss,” as well as indefatigable.

  7. Jon Heller - June 4, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

    Ahhhhhhhhh….THIS is the reason why so much progress is being made in Iraq. I just COULDN’T figure it out……

    6-4-06 BAGHDAD, Iraq – Masked gunmen stopped two minivans carrying students north of Baghdad Sunday, ordered the passengers off, separated Shiites from Sunni Arabs, and killed the 21 Shiites “in the name of Islam,” a witness said.

    How much money would you consider a good return?

    Significant amounts
    Proportional amounts

    In predominantly Shiite southern Basra, police hunting for militants stormed a Sunni Arab mosque early Sunday, just hours after a car bombing. The ensuing fire fight killed nine.

    The two attacks dealt a blow to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s pledge to curb sectarian violence. He again failed to reach consensus Sunday among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian parties on candidates for interior and defense minister — posts he must fill to implement his ambitious plan to take control of Iraq’s security from U.S.-led forces within 18 months.

    Violence linked to Shiite and Sunni Arab animosity has grown increasingly worse since Feb. 22, when bombs ravaged the golden dome of a revered Shiite mosque in predominantly Sunni Arab Samarra.

    Sectarian tensions have run particularly high in Baghdad, Basra and Diyala province, a mixed Sunni Arab-Shiite region. And Sunday’s attacks came just days after terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi renewed his call for Sunni Arabs to take up arms against Shiites, whom he often vilifies as infidels.

    In the minibus ambush, a car and an SUV stopped the vehicles near the town of Qara Tappah, about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad and near Diyala province, electrician Haqi Ismail, 48, told The Associated Press.

    Ismail said he had been driving his pickup truck behind the vans and was stopped too. About 15 masked men wearing traditional robes known as a dishdashas forced everyone out of the vehicles, he said.

    “They asked us to show our IDs, and then instructed us to stand in a line, separating the Sunni from the Shiite due to the IDs and also due to the faces,” said Ismail, a Shiite Kurd.

    He said the gunmen ordered the Shiites to lie down and before they opened fire one shouted, “On behalf of Islam, today we will dig a mass grave for you. You are traitors.”

    Ismail said he was injured but did not move.

    “One of the gunmen kicked me to be sure that I was dead,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed in Sulaimaniyah, north of Qara Tappah.

    Two of the victims were high school students, ages 17 and 18, and nine were students at al-Yarmouk University in Baqouba, ages 21-22, said Qara Tappah’s mayor, Serwan Shokir. The rest were men in their mid-to-late 30s, who worked as laborers or for the power company, the mayor said.

    The Basra violence — the car bomb Saturday and mosque raid early Sunday — came days after al-Maliki declared a state of emergency in the city, vowing to crack down with an “iron fist” on gangs fighting for power.

    Basra police surrounded the al-Arab mosque just after midnight Saturday, tipped off that militants holed up inside had opened fire. Also, Iraqi forces had found two vehicles packed with explosives near the mosque, similar to the car bomb used to attack a crowded market, killing 28 people and wounding 62.

    Police and gunmen exchanged fire, killing nine people. Police they arrested six terror suspects, adding that part of the mosque was damaged and burned.

    A hard-line Sunni organization in Basra, the influential Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars, said the nine people killed had come to the mosque to protect it.

    Parliament was postponed Sunday after al-Maliki again failed to find agreement on who should run Iraq’s security forces. The Shiite prime minister had promised to present candidates for the defense and interior posts, as well as minister of state for national security, on Sunday for approval by the 275-member parliament.

    The political parties decided “to give the prime minister another chance to have more negotiations,” said Deputy Parliament Speaker Khalid al-Atiya, a Shiite.

    In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed confidence that Iraqi leaders would agree on candidates in the next few days.

    “Of course, they need to get this settled, but they will get it settled. I really do believe that they’ll get it settled in the next few days. But the important thing here is that they get it right,” she told Fox News on Sunday.

    The Interior Ministry will go to a Shiite, the Defense to a Sunni Arab, in an effort to provide balance on security matters. Much of the problems focused on Shiite objections to some Sunni Arab candidates for the defense ministry because they served in the military under ousted President Saddam Hussein.

    “The names which were presented for the Defense Ministry were all rejected because some of them are famous military officers during the Saddam era,” said Haider al-Ebadi, a Shiite legislator and senior official from al-Maliki’s Dawa party.

    There also was dissent in Shiite ranks over the interior ministry.

    Iraqi security forces were searching Baghdad for four Russian diplomats kidnapped Saturday. Another Russian diplomat was killed in the attack that took place near the embassy in west Baghdad’s Mansour district. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad condemned the attack and promised to help seek the release of the hostages.

    The U.S. military said an American soldier was killed Saturday in the volatile Anbar province.

    In other violence Sunday, according to police:

    — Gunmen in a car opened fire on a minibus carrying telecommunications workers to an area near the Shiite slum of Sadr City, killing four and wounding two.

    — Police found 16 bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad and four in the city of Tikrit, north of the capital.

    — Gunmen in Tikrit killed three police officers and wounded two others at a checkpoint.

    — Gunmen broke into the home of an Iraqi army soldier, killing him, his two brothers and father and wounding his mother.

    — Two gunmen on a motorcycle killed Muntaha Ali and her husband Helmi Yaseen in Basra, believed to be employees of a U.S. government agency.


    Associated Press writers Yahya Barzanji in Qara Tappah and Suleymaniyah, and Kim Gamel and Qais al-Bashir in Baghdad contributed to this report.

  8. Tam O’Tellico - June 5, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

    As your post points out quite explicitly, Michael the Realist is right as always. At present rates of attrition, before Bush leaves office there won’t be anyone left alive in Iraq to oppose us. I’m reminded of the old saw “String ’em up; it’ll teach ’em a lesson.”

    For all his supposed “realism”, Michael doesn’t recognize reality anymore than he recognizes our “emperor’ is a stark-naked loser posing as a Philosopher-King. By his own deluded reckoning, The Great Decider, and he alone, is able to determine what is in our vital national interest – and all the while, he is busy handing out classified documents to suit his smarmy political purposes and lying his ass off while his military minions usurp our most fundamental rights. 1984 indeed!

    As Aesop once observed – “Any excuse will do for a tryant.” I would add that for people like Michael, any excuse will do for a President.

    If anyone really wants the naked truth about what’s going on with our merry adventures in the MidEast, check out the website cited in the piece below. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t go there, Michael, because:

    You Can’t Handle the Truth

    While the insurgency in Iraq grows stronger every day, our stated reasons for remaining there grow weaker by the minute. That’s because we’ve never been told the real reason we are there.

    We were frightened with exaggerated tales of WMD, but most of us now know that was at best stupidity – and what is far more likely – cupidity. We were told we were fighting terrorism over there instead of here, but most of us believe we are creating more terrorists than we are killing. In fact, we will likely be viewed as the New Crusaders for the rest of this century in the Middle East.

    We were told Saddam was a would-be Hitler, and that was certainly the case – save for the fact that he had no Wehrmacht and no industrial base. In fact, what weapons he did possess all too often were purchased from the U.S. with petrodollars forked over by profligate Americans in their pretentious SUVs. We now know and should have known then, that after a decades-long disastrous war with Iran, during which we supplied many of the weapons, and a decade of inspections and fly-overs after the First Gulf War, that Saddam posed little if any threat to the rest of the world.

    It is true that Saddam continued to pose a threat to his own people. No doubt, he was a bastard, but he could have been eliminated with a one-dollar bullet fired by an angry Iraqi instead of a five-hundred billion-dollar war initiated by the New Crusaders. Equally without doubt is the fact that there are plenty of bastards to choose from if our real purpose is to make the world right.

    Some have even suggested that this was a war with Oedipal implications, that W was out to show up his father, or conversely, or perhaps simultaneously, avenge his father. Whatever the truth of that matter, it is to be hoped that was the least of all possible reasons for the Iraq War.

    So what was the real reason we went to war in Iraq? Anyone who wants to understand the reality behind the policy should read this – especially those who continue to delude themselves about “spreading democracy”. To continue that canard is to spread something far more pungent.

    As this piece makes undeniably clear, the real reason we went to Iraq is oil. That leaves the question never asked – was that reason sufficient?

    That, as Hamlet might say, is the question, and it is not an easy question to answer. Certainly, we have vital strategic and economic interests affected by oil supplies in the MidEast – anyone who was alive in 1973 knows just how dependent we are on the whims of MidEast despots – including those despots who are such close personal friends of the President and his family.

    The problem is, we have never been asked whether we are willing to go to war in the MidEast to protect our profligate ways. Instead, we’ve been handed a lot of manure from our erstwhile leaders, manure which we have swallowed far too easily.

    It’s way past time we had an open discussion about the hard facts of life. And God knows, we should no longer allow ourselves to be so easily deceived by leaders passing off the aggressive pursuit of our (and their) economic interests as a “noble cause” or a “just war”.

    We should also have some hard public discussions about who gets to profit handsomely (some would say obscenely) from using our money and our military to protect those interests. But do not expect Dick Cheney or George Bush to moderate those discussions.

    But instead of this critical debate, we get spied on by our own government, we get laws passed to prevent inconvenient opinions being expressed in public forums, we get white-hot pursuit of whistle-blowers and reporters who dare to speak the truth to those who would hide the truth from us “for our own good”.

    In the end, that is the question. It is not whether we can force democracy on Iraq at the point of a gun, but whether we can preserve democracy in our own country. That doesn’t seem likely if we continue to be led by those who, to be far more kind than they deserve, deceive us while claiming to protect us. In short, our leaders are telling us we can’t handle the truth.

    ©2006 Tom Cordle
    Tellico Plains, TN

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