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We should have listened to Robin Cook

As George Bush and Tony Blair were conning us into their war of choice in Iraq, Robin Cook, Blair’s foreign secretary, resigned in protest, saying, ‘Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped create?’ Giving his own answer, he continued: ‘What has come to trouble me most over the past week is suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.’
We didn’t get to hear much of such talk here in the United States. Even when 61 percent of us supported more time for diplomacy and inspections, the so-called liberal media gave us little or no voice, and even if it had, right-wing rant media would have slimed us, branding us unpatriotic Bush-haters or traitors. Almost exclusively, we heard pro-war talk that parroted Bush and his neo-con chickenhawks. During the critical two weeks leading up to the war, only three of 393 media interviews were affiliated with anti-war activism, according to the media watch group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Such lop-sided exposure was provided courtesy of the liberal-dominated media, as the right likes to call them.
In spite of their trumped-up intelligence, Bush and his neo-con idealogues were treated like royalty by the media, though it’s England, not we, who has a queen. The burden of proof was not on Bush for wanting to go to war but on those who wanted to give diplomacy and inspections more time.
In July of 2005, Robin Cook again spoke clearly about the results of invading Iraq: ‘There were no international terrorists in Iraq until Bush and Blair insisted on invading it, creating the perfect conditions for terrorism ‘ weak central authority, porous borders and an alienated population …
‘Their present approach is fatally flawed by two delusions. The first is the belief that they will win if only they can kill every insurgent. After relentlessly pursuing this approach for two years, the U.S. military is worse off than when it started. We will continue to lose this conflict until U.S. forces grasp that they breed more insurgents by the indiscriminate use of firepower and by putting a higher priority on killing rebels than protecting civilians.
‘The second delusion is the insistence that military occupation of Iraq is the solution to the violence and not a large part of its cause. No strategy is going to succeed unless it includes an exit plan for foreign troops.’
Given the dangerous and disastrous blunder the war is turning out to be, it’s hard not to wish that Colin Powell, Robin Cook’s counterpart in Bush’s first term, had refused to lend his prestige as a cover for what Bush’s chickenhawks were up to, especially since they had done everything possible to undermine Powell’s State Department warnings about the hornet’s nest they’d stir up by invading Iraq. After all, it was the doctrine named for Powell that kept Bush I from going after Saddam when the Gulf war was won. You know, the doctrine stating that war was to be used only as a last resort, that the mission had to be clearly defined, that overwhelming force was to be used, that troops were not to be left in hostile territory without post combat plans and an exit strategy ‘ all lessons learned in Vietnam.
If Al Gore had conned us into a war of choice in Iraq, a war that has destabilized the whole Near East and escalated recruiting for terrorism, a war that has run up deficits, cost thousands of lives, and left our troops ill-equipped and insufficiently cared for when they return wounded, and a war that after four years still leaves Osama bin Laden on the loose ‘ if Al Gore had done half of this (not to mention the price of gas), he would have been given a dozen kinds of hell on each count every day of his presidency by the whole well-rehearsed chorus of right-wing rant media, and he would have been impeached instead of re-elected.
It just goes to show how unfair the Bush-hating liberal media has been to Bush and his chickenhawk warriors who are ready to send anyone but themselves and their children off to die in their ill-advised, badlyplanned war.
Incidentally, Robin Cook died of a heart attack on Aug. 6. Here, he did not get much in the way of attention from liberal media.
Also, incidentally, here is George H. W. Bush’s statement about why he did not go after Saddam after the Gulf War: ‘Trying to eliminate Saddam … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible … We would have been forced to occupy Bagdad and, in effect, rule Iraq … there was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our principles.
‘Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States would conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.’
This is from Bush I’s memoir, ‘A World Transformed,’ written nearly five years before his son’s invasion of Iraq.
Charles Allen of Corydon is a retired humanities teacher in Louisville.