Criminal Negligence

By Chris Floyd-
May 12, 2004.

"The rule of law is dead. "

  The decapitation of American citizen Nick Berg at the hands of the Jordanian terrorist Abu Zarqawi was a shattering act of barbarism. What is perhaps equally disturbing is the fact that George W. Bush could have prevented it -- but refused to do so.

Long before the war, Zarqawi and his band of non-Iraqi extremists had a camp in northern Iraq, in territory controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish armies, who had wrested it from the hands of Saddam Hussein. American military and intelligence forces had a free hand to operate there; indeed, anti-Saddam Iraqi exiles also held open meetings in the territory, safe from the reach of the dictator.

As NBC television reported months ago, American forces pinpointed Zarqawi's location in June 2002. They prepared an attack plan that would have destroyed this al-Qaida associate and his terrorist band. But their request to strike was turned down -- twice -- by the White House. Why? Because such a strike would have muddied the waters in the Regime's carefully calibrated public relations effort to foment war fever against Saddam's regime.

At every turn, Bush and his top officials painted a picture of Saddam Hussein as a powerful dictator able to threaten the entire world. At every turn, they implied, insinuated and sometimes openly declared that he was in league with al-Qaida. But this fictional portrait would have been undermined by a raid on Zarqawi, which would have exposed the truth: that Saddam was a crippled, toothless despot who had lost control of much of his own land and couldn't even threaten vast enemy armies within his own borders -- much less threaten his neighbors or the rest of the world. It would have also exposed the fact that the only al-Qaida agents operating on Iraqi soil were in areas controlled by America's allies.

Bush could have easily destroyed this barbaric al-Qaida cell, but he chose instead to focus on his long-planned invasion of Iraq: a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on America but was itself a target of al-Qaida's hatred. Not only was Zarqawi allowed to live and thrive, but massive resources were also diverted from the battle against Osama bin Laden in order to launch an unprovoked war of conquest and occupation in the most volatile region on Earth.

The entirely predictable results of this strategic and moral folly are plain to see. Iraq has been reduced to a state of chaos, where Islamic extremism has free rein for the first time. In Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaida have made a strong comeback, controlling large swathes of territory and operating with impunity throughout the land. Indeed, al-Qaida has launched more terrorist attacks around the world in the past two years than in the whole of its previous history. And just last month, Bush officials told us that it is "almost inevitable" that al-Qaida will strike America again, this time with a radioactive "dirty bomb." (Perhaps in time for the election?) Like Zarqawi, bin Laden has thrived on Bush's obsession with Iraq, which long predated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and had nothing to do with the "war on terrorism" -- or indeed any desire to "liberate" the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein.

As we've noted here many times, the plan to invade Iraq was set out long ago, in September 2000, by a group called Project for the New American Century, whose members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and many others now in the top ranks of government. PNAC declared publicly that Iraq must be conquered in order to establish an American military presence in the heart of the oil-rich Middle East. The issue of Saddam's thuggish regime was irrelevant to this larger goal, they said. Here is a direct quote: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

The Bush Regime was always going to invade and occupy Iraq, no matter what. It is central to its geopolitical strategy of ensuring what it calls "American dominance" of world affairs in the coming decades. The Sept. 11 attacks gave it an opportunity to galvanize -- and manipulate -- public opinion in support of this long-held goal. But as we have clearly seen, the real war on terror -- the one focused on capturing or eliminating al-Qaida terrorists like Zarqawi and bin Laden -- has been given short shrift while the Bush Regime pursues the "bigger prize" of controlling Iraq.

Now the Regime and its apologists have seized on this latest atrocity to continue their heinous and deliberate policy of conflating the Iraqi people with al-Qaida. They've used it to deflect attention from the Regime's war crimes in the prisons of Iraq, where the U.S. military's own intelligence officers say that an astounding 70 to 90 percent of the captives have been wrongfully imprisoned, The Wall Street Journal reports. Yet the war crime apologists are now declaring that the act of these foreign al-Qaida terrorists justifies the torture and abuse of innocent Iraqis.

Nick Berg went to Iraq in search of "business opportunities" offered by the Bush Team's "reconstruction" of the country they have destroyed. Zarqawi, who could have been eliminated long ago, was "liberated" by Bush's Iraqi invasion to roam the country, thriving on the postwar chaos. Their fatal encounter is a paradigm of Bush's entire misbegotten enterprise in Iraq: a tragic, senseless, unnecessary waste.

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