On March 20, 2003, I watched the televised beginning of the war in Iraq like many other Americans. The arguments in favor of war laid out by President George W. Bush in the months leading up to the invasion made me uncomfortable, and the president was a bit smug for my liking, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It all sounded good in theory: depose the evil dictator, destroy his weapons of mass destruction, install a working democracy and make the world a safer place for us all. He made it sound so simple and painless.
One year later, as it turns out, it’s actually complicated and painful. The state of affairs in Iraq is a mess of epic proportions, and we have more enemies now than when the whole thing started.
I waited curiously to see how Bush would mark his one-year anniversary on Saturday. With the situation as it is, you’d expect at the very least he would spend it in quiet contemplation and perhaps attend a vigil for all the lives lost in Iraq. Or perchance he would deliver an open and honest speech outlining what went wrong and what he would do to fix it. Or maybe he’d throw a huge party and invite all of his friends.
Alas, as it turns out, he opted for a huge party. Bush, still happily oblivious to reality, spent Saturday at a campaign rally in Florida defending his decision to go to war and taking jabs at John Kerry.
In the most Orwellian of words, Bush told supporters at the rally, “Sept. 11, 2001, taught a lesson I’ll never forget. America must confront threats before they fully materialize.” He boasted that he would “defend the security of America, whatever it takes.” The smugness and swagger are still there, and that’s the saddest part of the affair: He still honestly believes, in his heart of hearts, that he made the right decision in invading Iraq. He still believes we can win the war on terror.
Almost two years ago, long before the invasion of Iraq, Indie comedian David Cross said, “You cannot win a war on terrorism. It’s like having a war on jealousy. … It’s an absurd notion. At no point in time are we gonna go, ‘Woo! Got em all. Everybody loves us again!’ … All we’re doing is making new terrorists … Cause people f—ing hate us again.” His words ring truer and scarier now than ever. You know your country is in trouble when a foul-mouthed Indie comedian has a better understanding of modern-day foreign affairs and can express himself more eloquently than the president.
Still, in the face of rampant anti-Americanism abroad, Bush had the nerve to say “The world is counting on us to lead the cause of freedom and peace,” which makes it rather unfortunate then that the president is “going to keep [his] campaign right here in America.” One would think that when it comes to determining what the world wants, the world would have a say, but apparently it’s best left up to American voters.
Bush also took the opportunity to lob a few potshots at his likely opponent in the upcoming election, Sen. John Kerry. He criticized Kerry’s claim that several foreign leaders have offered him their support and said, “The other day, here in Florida, [Kerry] claimed some important endorsements. He won’t tell us the name of the foreign admirers. That’s OK. Either way, I’m not too worried.”
Kerry’s decision to not disclose the names of his “foreign admirers” is a wise one because Kerry, like many of us, knows that the president would summarily bomb said admirers’ countries if that information got out.
Through it all, chants of “U-S-A” and “Four more years” rained down. It scares me that, with all that’s happened in the last year, so many are still unable to see through the president’s good-ole-boy facade to the evil within.
And so, in conclusion, I would like to offer a heartfelt “happy anniversary” to President Bush. May your next war be as fulfilling as your first.
Joel Hoard, University of Michigan