National Commentary

Helen Thomas: Bush Should Explain Why He Invaded Iraq

WASHINGTON — As the nation marks the fourth anniversary of the war against Iraq, we still await an explanation from President Bush about why he invaded that oil-rich Middle Eastern country.

Every reason he cited for launching of the war on March 19, 2003, has proved to be fictitious. There were no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network and no threat from that third-world country against the U.S., the world’s only military superpower.

Doesn’t he owe an apology to the country or at least an explanation, particularly to the families of loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for reasons he seems incapable of explaining?

Under international law, the only reason to go to war is when a nation is attacked or when it has a treaty with a nation under attack. Those weren’t the circumstances four years ago when this president made the decision to take the nation into war, with the backing of a rubber-stamp Republican-led Congress.

Nearly 3,200 Americans have died in the war so far. The Pentagon says it has no idea how many Iraqis have been killed. A Pentagon spokesman says: "We don’t track them."

According to a survey published in the British medical Journal The Lancet, more than 650,000 Iraqis have been killed during the war.

The four years of "Operation Iraq Freedom" have been expensive, costing the United States close to $500 billion, with costs expected to run up to $1 trillion or more.

And yet Bush persists in this inhumane misadventure, pouring more troops and money into the occupation of Iraq which he, incidentally, claims has not shown us enough gratitude.

Bush is putting his money on Gen. David Petraeus, the new swashbuckling U.S. commander in Iraq, to help him declare a victory after the civil strife is brought under control and the country’s oil is parceled out among the three main factions.

Ironically, the Iraqis are being warned that American patience may run out. They should be so lucky.

The U.S. is making a show of force, particularly in Baghdad, to deal with the insurgents. As long as Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney play the "support-the-troops" fear card, the newly-empowered Democrats in Congress will be over a barrel and politically paralyzed.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush said "Congress has no greater obligation than funding our war fighters." He also threatened to veto any legislation setting a timetable for a pullout from that benighted country.

I think the president has no greater obligation than to explain to the American people why they should kill and be killed in U.S-occupied Iraq.

Meantime, the fallout from the war has been devastating for the White House.

The administration is circling the wagons and the president’s hand is severely weakened with the loss of control of Congress. The war has taken its toll politically, diplomatically and militarily.

Bush aides are into damage control with the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in deep trouble for the apparent politically-motivated firing of eight federal prosecutors. Furthermore, the FBI admits it overstepped its legal bounds under the USA Patriot Act by invading the privacy of individual Americans and businesses. And the scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital has exposed the low priority that the administration has given to returning war veterans.

With all its crises, the White House has now become a tight little island. When a president is in trouble, he falls back on the old hands to rescue his legacy. So Bush tapped former Nixon White House lawyer Fred Fielding and dispatched him to Capitol Hill to smooth relations with lawmakers seeking Gonzales’ scalp over the firing of the prosecutors.

Another bullpen artist, former CIA director Robert Gates, was called back to duty to replace former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, fired.

The Republican Party knows it could face a devastating election defeat in 2008 unless Bush calls a halt to the Iraqi debacle.

To give voters a choice, the Democrats better forget about timetables and benchmarks. The time to leave is now, before more have to give up their lives.

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