WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)-On the eve of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks, President George W. Bush said he will ask Congress for a staggering $87 billion in emergency spending for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan–the two wars where he has sent troops during the last two years in the name of “Homeland Security.”
Iraq, Mr. Bush said in a nationally televised prime-time address Sept. 7, has now become “the central front” in his declared war against terrorism.
The $87 billion he’s now requesting is larger by $17 billion than the largest pre-speech estimates, and would come on top of the $79 billion that Congress approved in April for the initial costs of the war and its aftermath.
The President has seen new questions about troop levels and even muted calls for him to change course in Iraq raised by Republicans and renewed outright criticism voiced by Democrats about almost every aspect of his handling of the war and its mounting casualties.
While the confrontation with Iraq’s deposed President Saddam Hussein initially made Mr. Bush’s popularity skyrocket, public confidence in his handling of Iraq has dropped since the war. The latest Zogby America poll said that Mr. Bush has dropped to the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. The poll reported that 54 percent of Americans rated Mr. Bush’s performance as fair or poor, while only 40 percent said he deserved to be re-elected.
The Sunday evening speech was Mr. Bush’s first speech on Iraq since May 1, when he stood on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major combat operations. He made no mention of the administration’s failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nor did he predict how long American troops would remain there.
Playing on patriotic themes, Mr. Bush said the United States has “done this kind of work before. Following World War II, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany and stood with them as they built representative governments. We committed years and resources to this cause.”
Mr. Bush warned, however, that in this country “there will be no going back to the era before September 11, 2001, to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness.”
A fresh burst of Democratic criticism followed the speech. “Let’s be clear–a 15-minute speech does not make up for 15 months of misleading the American people on why we should go to war against Iraq, or 15 weeks of mismanaging the reconstruction effort since we have been there,” said Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean.
Mr. Bush has “been going down the wrong path,” said Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), another White House hopeful.
Describing Iraq as the central front in the war against terror, Mr. Bush said the “enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there, and there they must be defeated.”
“This will take time and require sacrifice,” he said. While saying the United States has enough troops in Iraq, Mr. Bush said American commanders have requested a multinational division to serve alongside similar units led by Britain and Poland.
Following the speech, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that country will send two additional battalions to Iraq, adding 1,200 troops to its forces already there. Britain now has 11,000 troops in the country.
Some countries have sought an explicit UN peacekeeping authorization, and Mr. Bush said Secretary of State Colin Powell would seek a Security Council resolution to authorize deployment of new forces. The President himself will address the UN General Assembly in mid-September.
French officials said Mr. Bush’s speech, urging the international community to settle its differences over Iraq and back an American-drafted UN resolution, offered prospects of an agreement according to published reports.
There needs to be a greater sense of urgency on the part of administration officials concerning the U.S. infrastructure and closing vital gaps in the homeland security network, according to Democrats in Congress who offered a comprehensive analysis of Mr. Bush’s policies, as well as the actions of the Republican controlled House and Senate.
The federal government must share and coordinate information, as well as provide police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel in every community with equipment–especially a secure communications network, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House Minority Leader told reporters Sept. 5. Sadly, she said, on Sept. 11, 2001 firefighters and police had no means of communicating with one another at Ground Zero.
In addition, borders must be monitored, security and customs inspections must be tightened at all U.S. ports, cargo must be inspected before it boards passenger aircraft, and vital bridges, chemical, nuclear and power facilities–which are still not secured two years after 9/11–must receive additional safeguards.
“I don’t think the question is ‘are we safer than we were on Sept. 10?’ The question is are we as safe as we can be?” Mrs. Pelosi said in response to a question from The Final Call. “We’ll never have a 100 percent guarantee of safety, but the question is, are we as safe as we can be? It’s very important to note that over and over again, we have been calling for a real commitment to homeland security.
“We need the additional equipment. We need the additional training. We need the additional personnel in order to respond and, more importantly, to prevent.”
“The American people are afraid,” said Congressional Black Caucus member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) in response to the question, “and they want us to grab for them the same sense of urgency–not fear–in protecting them. Our administration and this government has less than a passing grade on infrastructure dealing with the energy grid.”
Militarily, despite the success of this country’s “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq, and the massive projection of force there, in the four months since Mr. Bush’s dramatic declaration that major hostilities were over, U.S. casualties have risen steadily, to the point where more have died in the aftermath of the war than during the combat phase.
Those mounting casualties have resulted in first a trickle, and now a stream of protests from not only the families of military service personnel serving in the Iraqi theater, but from active duty service members, as well.
In New Orleans on Sept. 8, a military jury found an anti-war U.S. Marine reservist guilty of unauthorized absence and sentenced him to six months in jail for refusing to report to his unit during the Iraq war.
Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk, 21, says he was singled out for prosecution because he was a conscientious objector who spoke at anti-war rallies. To date, he is the only one of 28 Marine Corps conscientious objectors to the Iraq war to face prosecution. The military says he was the only one who did not report for duty.
Family members of other veterans now deployed in Iraq are also now raising their voices, promising they will join former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and his Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (International A.N.S.W.E.R.) Coalition in an anti-war, anti-Iraqi occupation march and demonstration to the Pentagon and U.S. Justice Department on Oct. 25.
“A month ago, my son-in-law came home and I was so glad,” Gloria Jackson told reporters Sept. 3 at the National Press Club in Washington. “He spoke to me over the phone. He says that ‘I want my wife home, because if she doesn’t come home, I’m going to start something.’
“I told him, don’t do that. Let me be the one to speak out to say, let’s bring the troops home. Because this is an unfair war. I wish that Bush had never sent our troops over there.
“Sometimes I feel very upset because I could not afford to send my daughter to college. I talked her into going into the Army,” Ms. Jackson said. She was not alone.
“We stand with Stephen Funk and the other young people who have said no to George Bush’s racist and illegal war,” Epia Nwangaza, from the Not in Our Name Project, said at the National Press Club. Her niece is on her first tour, and her nephew is on his second tour in the Persian Gulf.
“We call on people of all backgrounds to join the movement and build the resistance to the U.S. government’s open-ended war on the world; to resist the U.S. government’s efforts to use the language of fear–the so-called War on Terrorism; to use the cover of Sept. 11th’s grief and hysteria to implement a long-standing agenda of global empire domestic compliance and acquiescence.”
Mr. Bush was warned about the chorus of anti-war demonstrations, which is rising again in this country, by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in letters written in December 2001 and October 2002. “The anti-war demonstrators will blame every death of an American service person and every death of an Iraqi citizen on you and this will produce a crisis for your administration within the United States, as well as in countries throughout the world,” the Nation of Islam leader predicted.
Those sentiments can be heard in the voices of those preparing to march again in Washington in October of this year.
“The United States cannot be trusted,” said Mr. Clark at the National Press Club Sept. 3 as he announced the Oct. 25 demonstration and his organization’s petition–already signed by 300,000 people–to impeach Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.
“While this government is in power, it will continue its ways. It really believes it has the right to change regimes–Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia,” said Mr. Clark. The U.S. is spending millions right now to create difficulties for governments it does not like in Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, he said.
” If, we don’t remove this government for its crimes, it will lead us into further difficulties. Above all, the United States and the people of the United States risk losing their character.”
The U.S. detention base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is an example of the worst effect of what Mr. Clark describes as the wrong-headed prosecution of this country’s “illegal” wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Don’t we see what we’re holding up to the whole world. The U.S. will torture. The U.S. will hold people and won’t tell a soul who they are. You see them limping out. You hear of 29 suicide attempts, four teenagers as young as 13. And we believe in freedom? It makes the Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights, which the Patriot Act itself shreds.”
In the first full year of the Bush presidency, Mr. Clark complained, “We’ve got 1.3 million more people in poverty last year than ever before.”
Meanwhile, USA Today, reported that the monthly bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan now actually rival the Pentagon’s average monthly spending during the Vietnam conflict. Just like the Vietnam War was, “the invasion of Iraq and the war against the people of Iraq was also built on lies,” according to International A.N.S.W.E.R. Following Mr. Bush’s leadership, the U.S., in fact is already bogged down in a “quagmire in Iraq, just as the U.S. got bogged down in a war based on “fraud and lies” in Vietnam, according to the coalition.
“The Iraq invasion and the Iraq war is a fraud and a lie. The fraud and the lie is to convince the people of the United States to support the war, or at minimum to acquiesce in a criminal endeavor being taken by the government of this country,” according to A.N.S.W.E.R.
“They have asked and demanded that the people of the United States sacrifice $4 billion, $6 billion, more than that every month, while they see their libraries closed, while they see their public hospitals closed, while they wonder whether or not they can pay for college for their children,” the anti-war coalition argues.
A.N.S.W.E.R. insists that it doesn’t help for the administration to reach out and ask that its “criminal occupation force” be internationalized by United Nations troops. “What must happen is that the troops be brought home.”
The coalition that Mr. Bush gathered prior to his attack on Afghanistan has already fallen away, just as Min. Farrakhan predicted in his letter to the President in December 2001. “I am afraid that this extended war may take a turn that you and your advisors least expect, and involve America in the greatest of all wars, the War of Armageddon, in which no nation will be left out, including Russia and China,” the letter read.
“Mr. President, if you do this, you will bring down upon America an increase in the Divine Judgment of rain, hail, snow, wind, earthquakes, pestilence and famine that is already witnessed in the country,” Min. Farrakhan warned in his letter last October. “As you go about destroying other nations and cities, you will bring this kind of Divine Wrath on the American people and on American cities. Please reconsider your plans.
“I believe there is a better way to win. A way that may appear more difficult, but you will be assured of the Help of Allah (God).
“Mr. President, it will take great courage on your part to look at America’s policies with a critical eye, and, it will take even greater courage to break from the policies of the past and make a new beginning for this nation and the world,” the Muslim leader advised.