Bush’s tar baby

Since George W. Bush came to office in January 2001, the United States has experienced one crisis after another, and in most Americans these crises have provoked doubt and questioning of the correctness of our actions as a nation. The only people who seem to have no doubt, it appears, are President Bush and the members of his inner circle.

That was abundantly clear during the president’s Tuesday night press conference, during which he vigorously defended the war in Iraq while glossing over his failure to take seriously pre-9/11 warnings about Al Qaeda, in particular a dire Aug. 6, 2001, presidential briefing warning of pending attacks on U.S. soil.

In his somber opening statement, the president trotted out his usual talking points: that the U.S. must “stay the course” in Iraq; that a democratic Iraq would be “good for the world"; that for the U.S. to back down now would be craven capitulation to thugs and power-mongers and devastating to American credibility.

Asked repeatedly by a White House press corps that finally seems to be developing a spine whether he’d made any mistakes, the president said that he grieved for the families of those who died on 9/11 and the soldiers who’ve died in Iraq. The best he could do as far as acknowledging mistakes was to say “I’m confident I have [made them],” but he could offer no specifics.

We can think of a few. Predicating a war on false assumptions, faulty intelligence and hubris, for starters. Using deception and distortion to sell that war to the American people. Assuming that the U.S. could succeed in Iraq without the help of the international community. Failing to plan for establishing security in post-war Iraq, which resulted in pandemic looting followed by violent insurgency and continuing instability. Creating a magnet for terrorists in an effort to defeat terrorists. The list goes on.

And now the president has no real plan for getting out of Iraq. U.N. officials no doubt were surprised to learn that they are “figuring out the nature of the entity we’ll be handing sovereignty over to” on June 30, since they have neither agreed nor have the authority to do so. And the president acknowledged that Iraqi troops and police were anything but up to the task of establishing order.

The U.S. has a real tar baby on its hands here, and only the president and his minions seem confident that we can shake it loose. The rest of us, like so many people elsewhere in the world, are left wondering how this disaster will ever end as long as American leadership is so inflexible and uncritical of itself.