President George W. Bush chose Alaska as the place to accuse his critics of being "irresponsible" and of "playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy," so it was fitting that one of the most eloquent responses came in the form of an editorial in the Anchorage Daily News. -- "What's irresponsible," said the paper (circ. 72,000, on Sunday 85,000) is "the suggestion that the world's greatest democracy cannot abide questioning about a war launched under false pretenses." -- Bush's charge of rewriting the history of the war is one that "perfectly describes what he himself is doing," Alaska's largest and most widely read paper noted, reminding readers of Scott Ritter's pre-war testimony and of the fact that the Downing Street memo said that "The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" long before the war. -- The Anchorage Daily News concluded: "BOTTOM LINE: President Bush insults the nation and the troops fighting and dying in Iraq when he questions the patriotism of those who question his leadership." ...
BUSH VS. WAR CRITICS
** Supporting the troops doesn't require suppressing dissent **
Anchorage Daily News
November 17, 2005
President Bush used his stopover in Alaska to fire more shots at those who criticize his handling of the Iraq war. It was a disappointing exercise in diversionary tactics from a leader trying to rally the nation behind an increasingly unpopular war.
He all but accused his critics of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. "They are playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy, and that's irresponsible," he said.
What's irresponsible is the suggestion that the world's greatest democracy cannot abide questioning about a war launched under false pretenses.
The president claims his critics are trying to rewrite the history of how the war started. His charge is ironic, as it perfectly describes what he himself is doing. He convinced the nation that war was essential to protect Americans against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and was justified as retaliation against a regime that was connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Both rationales for war proved false.
President Bush defends the way things turned out, claiming his critics had the same intelligence he did about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction. That's simply not true. As the Washington Post reported, "Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material."
President Bush claims that he didn't manipulate pre-war intelligence to steer the nation to war in Iraq, citing the findings of a commission he appointed. The Robb-Silberman Commission concluded that intelligence analysts didn't change their reports because of pressure from within the Bush administration.
However, "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers," said commission co-chair Laurence Silberman. As the New York Times noted, "What Mr. Bush left unaddressed was the question of how his administration used that intelligence, which was full of caveats, subtleties and contradiction."
The Bush administration faced a problem making the case for war. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran," according to the "Downing Street memo," a confidential British foreign service summary of discussions with the Bush administration in the summer before Congress voted to authorize the war. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action," the memo said. "The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Unfortunately, it should have been the other way around, with the policy based on the facts.
U.S. forces never found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And that wouldn't surprise anyone who listened to United Nations weapons inspectors.
As Scott Ritter, an inspector and former U.S. Marine officer who served under Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in the first gulf war, recently stated: "We were monitoring Iraq . . . with the most intrusive, technologically advanced, on-site inspection program in the history of arms control. . . . We were unable to detect any evidence of either a retained capability or a reconstituted capability in weapons of mass destruction."
The New York Times wrote in an editorial: "It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why."
Now those pressing for a long overdue explanation are irresponsible?
The critics, and all Americans, including the brave service men and women on the front lines, deserve better.
BOTTOM LINE: President Bush insults the nation and the troops fighting and dying in Iraq when he questions the patriotism of those who question his leadership.
** Those who serve deserve thanks **
President Bush and his critics can agree on one thing: Americans are grateful to our military serving in Iraq and elsewhere in harm's way.
As the president said at Elmendorf Air Force Base, "For many of you, Alaska is a long way from home, and it can get especially lonely when your loved ones are deployed on dangerous missions in distant lands." Those in the military and their loved ones are bearing a heavy burden on behalf of the entire country, at a time when no sacrifices are asked of ordinary citizens.
On this we agree with the president.
But supporting our military does not require unquestioning agreement with the president on the war or any other policy. One of the reasons U.S. troops are still fighting and dying in Iraq is to instill democracy there. One way to support them, and to honor their sacrifices, is to uphold those same democratic values -- including the right to question our leaders -- here at home.
BOTTOM LINE: Support the troops and respect the true values of democracy.