Will history vindicate Bush? by Eric Koo

In a rare occasion in his presidency for 5 years thus far, President Bush finally admitted publicly that at least 30,000 Iraqis and 2140 US troops have died by mid December 2005 as a consequence of his decision to launch the Iraq War in 2003. The results were far from unpleasant, as Republicans and Democrats both applauded and demonstrated approval.

It takes considerable courage for a leader of high standing, and in command of the greatest nation on Earth to admit that there are flaws in his policy. Whatever his faults, one cannot deny the frank admission by Mr. Bush is an unusual one, and certainly one worthy of respect, disregarding the risk that such a move could well deplete his already flagging popularity.

The character of US President George W. Bush is an enigma. During his first term of office, he presided over two large scale military campaigns, the Afghan War fought in November 2001 and the Iraq War in 2003. Both ended in the rapid toppling of totalitarian regimes in the two nations. Subsequent events saw the USA getting bogged down in the enormous task of nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq into resemblances of democracies. The uglier side of things, of course, was that in the meantime, American soldiers’ lives were being lost steadily in these two countries as local and foreign militant and insurgent groups waged a constant campaign of violence and terror intended to drive out the American military presence.

Often, the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has been compared to the earlier debacles in the 20th century, the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Anti Bush critics are apt to browbeat the irrationality of the Iraq War decision, among other issues, handled inadequately by the Bush Administration, for example, the disastrous aftermath and response of Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in mid 2005. Criticisms of Bush’s decisions and his Administration’s refusal to admit errors, have filled countless opinions-editorial pages in newspapers and media websites. In turn, President Bush had to make many public speeches time and again to defend and justify his stand and decision.

However, politics in reality are seldom about justifying rights or wrongs, but about winning and losing. The decision that President Bush took regarding the launching of the Iraq War was certainly not a light one. Much preparation in military logistics, political lobbying in the US Senate, and diplomatic maneuvering had first to be employed at the United Nations, and it is a well known fact today that the Bush Administration did not wait for UN sanctions and approval before launching the war.

On justifying Bush’s decisions and policies

Of times, national leaders at the head of great nations or empires were forced to make certain monumental decisions, of which the consequences are often irrevocable. More often than not, risk taking with high stakes were involved. A leader, therefore, must live by the good or the bad consequences of his or her decision. He or she is ultimately responsible. The decision of the Bush Administration to fight the Iraq War in 2003 is a good contemporary example of such a decision.

For example, Alexander the Great was said to have given away all his personal wealth before leading his army into Asia on a path of conquest. He risked virtually his entire army, an outnumbered force, against the Persian Empire’s much larger mustered army in three decisive battles – Granicus, Issus and Guatemala, using brilliant but repetitive tactics against his enemy, King Darius. Had Alexander lost or was defeated at any of these battles, history would have condemned Alexander as just another failed warlord and military adventurer hell-bent on conquest, with the immature idealism of youth. But the fact was that Alexander did win these decisive battles, thus leaving his name to propensity as “the Great”.

When Julius Caesar led his legions to the banks of the Rubicon River, he was said to quoted, “Alea Jacta Est” which meant, “The die is cast.” That meant there could be no turning back to his decision of marching his army to Rome. Julius Caesar’s decision led to a brief civil war in Rome, and ultimately to his dominance in politics and absolute power as dictator of Rome.
More than 2000 years later, US President Bush must have felt the same at the start of the fateful day, 20th March 2003, when the ultimatum for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave Baghdad was up. Had Bush not followed up his action to go to war, US credibility would have been at stake, and the USA would have been seen to have backed down from a dare. Anti US elements in the Middle East and Islamic terrorists would have been even more emboldened than before.

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Corinne Fowler