In his speech to the nation about Iraq this week, President Bush said, “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."
The president needs to be reminded that he is responsible not only for “mistakes” that have been made in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, he is personally responsible for the entire Iraq debacle from start to finish.
Don’t forget: When it came to invading and occupying Iraq, President Bush, by his own admission, was the Decider (along with Vice President Cheney). He decided to invade Iraq without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. He decided to aggress against a country that had not attacked the United States, a type of action that was prosecuted as a war crime at Nuremberg. He decided to cherry pick the intelligence to fit his decision to attack Iraq. He decided not to rely on the UN inspectors. He decided to ignore the worldwide antiwar protests prior to the invasion. He decided to invade Iraq to “get Saddam.” He decided to open the torture floodgates that led to Abu Ghraib.
As the Decider, Bush (along with Cheney) is personally responsible for the 3,000 U.S. deaths, the 650,000 Iraqi deaths, the countless Americans and Iraqis who are permanently maimed, and the chaos, violence, and civil war that his invasion and occupation have unleashed in Iraq.
If Bush’s plan to continue occupying Iraq until he leaves office fails, and if he is forced to withdraw from Iraq, he, as the Decider, will be personally responsible for the aftermath in Iraq. As the Decider, he will lack standing to blame the withdrawal and aftermath on the liberal press, the antiwar protestors, the hippies, or the peaceniks because he is the Decider who can decide to ignore everybody and do whatever he wants.
However, we shouldn’t forget Congress’s important and cowardly role in this deadly and destructive debacle. When the president proposed invading Iraq, Republican members of Congress (with the notable exception of Ron Paul) hopped to, clicked their heels, saluted, and effectively said—“Issue your orders, Mr. President, because we are here to serve you.” And cowardly Democratic members of Congress, fearful that Bush, Cheney, and Bush’s assistant Karl Rove would call them terrorist-loving traitors effectively said the same thing.
Ultimately, however, the problem facing our nation is a systemic one, not a personal one. Given the existence of a military Empire with an interventionist philosophy that has infected our nation for decades, an Iraq-type debacle was bound to happen at some point or another. As the Iraq disaster continues to head toward a denouement, the American people should be reflecting on the idea of restoring to our land the limited-government, non-interventionist philosophy of our nation’s Founding Fathers.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.