A brief history puts all in context. Ronald Reagan ordered a US invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and, like Bush Jr, his invasion was premised upon what was politely called a "deceitful pretext", in other words, a lie! The "pretext" was that the PLO, called a terrorist organization, had shot the Israeli ambassador in London. In fact, the shooter may never have been a PLO member. [Fading Illusions: D-Day and Reagan].
By the time Reagan would reprise Eisenhower's invasion of Lebanon  things had changed. Israel had just invaded Lebanon amid "a besieged set of Palestinian fighters". A Syrian expeditionary force and separate armed Lebanese factions had been embroiled in active warfare for a period of seven years. Reagan had no idea what he was getting into.
The American decision to invade was opportunistic as well as reactive. Like Bush today, Reagan had no clear objectives, no definition of victory, no way to "win". Like Iraq today, the Lebanon Reagan invaded became a magnet for various "terrorist groups" who grew more active over the duration of the American occupation. Armed and dangerous, they tested Reagan's resolve and won. Like Bush, Reagan's definition of victory was defined with meaningless slogans -like "you can run but you can't hide". They did both and followed-up with a counter-attack. Reagan lost his war against "terrorism".
Terrorism grew worse over the two years Reagan waged it, establishing a trend did not abate until Bill Clinton was elected President. There were some three times as many terrorist attacks against U.S. interests during the Reagan regime than during that of Bill Clinton.
Nevertheless, Reagan's adventure in Lebanon is remembered for two things: a) the thousands of lives lost amid waves of refugees; b) Reagan's ignominious pull-out following the bombing of the U.S. marine barracks. The pullout was thought to have been cowardly at the time. It is charitable in retrospect to attribute to Reagan remorse for having wrongly invaded to begin with. That's too much to expect from the GOP. In the earlier invasion, Ronald Reagan supported Israel just as Bush Jr has done more recently. [See: Reagan Orders Marines Out of Lebanon]
In the meantime, conservatives bemoan a "lack of support" for the various and asundry "wars" that conservatives are wont to wage but never win. The American people, they say, simply do not "understand that terrorists had already launched the war against them." Is that so? In fact, the opposite is almost always true. American and, in many case, British interventionism and colonialism, are at the very root cause of terrorism. Stats clearly indicate that in those instances when US/British colonialism results in invasion or other aggressions, terrorism increases as a result. "We" have been the starters of war since World War II, arguably our last honorable performance on behalf of the principles of Democracy.
When has America has ever gone to war in the Middle East upon anything other than a dubious pretext? Let's revisit Eisenhower's decision send US marines to Lebanon back in 1958. Ike's decision was called an "open challenge" to the popular uprising in Iraq that brought Abdel Karim Qassim to power. Then, as now, the real reasons for US involvement are easily traced to oil -specifically, the prices of oil at the well-head and the access to the means to transport it.
The seeds of Bush Sr's "Persian Gulf War" are easily traced to 1958. Qassim was then the GOP demon du jour, the Saddam Hussein of his day. He had legalized both the national party and the communist party and, as if to lay the groundwork for Bush Sr's foray on "behalf" of Kuwait, Qassim openly challenged "the British amputation of Kuwait". Kuwait was and remains Iraq's access to the sea, crucial to Iraq's export of oil, Iraq's life blood. Qassim enraged Eisenhower, confining US and British oil companies to one tenth of one percent of the territory of Iraq. The big oil sponsors were chagrined.
Fast forward to Bush Sr's Persian Gulf War. The senior Bush lured Saddam into annexing Kuwait. It was a cynical move worthy of the ex-CIA spook, a move designed to provide the US with a pretext to engage Saddam who had been producing too much oil, lowering the price of oil on the spot markets.
We have no opinion on your Arab - Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)
- Transcript of Meeting Between Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein and US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. - July 25, 1990 (Eight days before the August 2, 1990 Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait)
It is often said that conservatives are stronger on national defense. Are they really? Is it so? As we have seen, we became less safe under Reagan as terrorist attacks increased. Likewise, we are less safe under Bush, the Shrub!
Reagan announced his "War on Terrorism" to a meeting of evangelicals on March 8, 1983, warning terrorists: "You can run but you can't hide!" In the mouth of George W. Bush, over a decade later, it became "one of our objectives is to smoke them out and get them running and bring them to justice". The torture cells of Abu Ghraib and throughout the CIA gulag archipelago of Eastern Europe are not justice. Nor has Bush ever won a victory on behalf of either Democracy or justice.
The only thing said by Bush that could be depended upon was his absurd and grammatically incorrect statement: "There's no rules". If there are no rules there is no justice to defend, there is no rule of law, there is no Democracy, there is no civilization at risk.
Bush, not terrorists, imperils Democracy, indeed, civilization itself. Given the record of miserable failure, why does the GOP persist? I can think of two reasons off hand.
- wars are easily exploited to stir feelings of patriotism and false pride;
- the GOP is the official party of big oil and big oil can depend upon the GOP to wage its oil wars on their behalf. In return, the GOP gets a lot of money from the likes of Enron (before its Ponzi scheme came crashing down), Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton (to whom Cheney sold his soul), Shell et al.
According to the Pew Research Center, American skepticism about the war in Iraq has increased steadily from its inception; it is increasingly seen as harming the "war on terrorism".
A plurality (47%) believes that the war in Iraq has hurt the war on terrorism, up from 41% in February of this year. Further, a plurality (45%) now says that the war in Iraq has increased the chances of terrorist attacks at home, up from 36% in October 2004, while fewer say that the war in Iraq has lessened the chances of terrorist attacks in the US (22% now and 32% in October). Another three-in-ten believe that the war in Iraq has no effect on the chances of a terrorist attack in the US
- Pew Research Center, "Iraq Hurting War on Terror"
The level of vituperative rhetoric has divided and radicalized the right wing. John Dean, whose book I have previously referenced, still thinks himself a Barry Goldwater conservative though he has been among George Bush's most vocal critics. That he looks like a liberal now, he says, is only a measure of how far right the right has become.
Michael Deaver, meanwhile, claims that many so-called "conservatives" who support Bush are not conservative at all. They favor big and intrusive government. Many, like Dick Cheney, believe deficits no longer matter. Others - neocons in particular - openly pine for another Pearl Harbor that might be exploited for political purposes. [See: "Project for a New American Century"] Was 911 "their" Pearl Harbor? In fairness, such "radical authoritarians" have little in common with "conservatives." True conservatism - small government, civil libertarians - is an endangered, perhaps extinct species.
What makes terrorism worse is, in a nutshell, US imperialism, itself made worse by the competition for a finite resource: oil. Noam Chomsky does a fairly good job of summing it all up with a single phrase: "the United States is terrified".
Sadly, something must be done to stop a pattern of aggression not seen since Adolph Hitler attacked Poland and kicked off World War II. Ask yourself, what kind of world will we live in five, ten, twenty years, if US oil barons and dictator wannabes are not stopped and compelled to behave responsibly? Sleep well tonight.