[Mb-civic] Why We Must Not Re-Elect George Bush
michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Sep 29 18:56:30 PDT 2004
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Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush
By George Soros
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Prepared text of speech delivered September 28, 2004, National Press Club,
This is the most important election of my lifetime. I have never been
heavily involved in partisan politics but these are not normal times.
President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and
undermining American values. That is why I am sending you this message. I
have been demonized by the Bush campaign but I hope you will give me a
President Bush ran on the platform of a "humble" foreign policy in
2000. If we re-elect him now, we endorse the Bush doctrine of preemptive
action and the invasion of Iraq, and we will have to live with the
consequences. As I shall try to show, we are facing a vicious circle of
escalating violence with no end in sight. But if we repudiate the Bush
policies at the polls, we shall have a better chance to regain the respect
and support of the world and to break the vicious circle.
I grew up in Hungary, lived through fascism and the Holocaust, and then
had a foretaste of communism. I learned at an early age how important it is
what kind of government prevails. I chose America as my home because I value
freedom and democracy, civil liberties and an open society.
When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I
set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open
society. I started in South Africa in 1979 and established a foundation in
my native country, Hungary, in 1984 when it was still under communist rule.
China, Poland and the Soviet Union followed in 1987. After the Berlin Wall
fell in 1989, I established foundations in practically all the countries of
the former Soviet empire and later in other parts of the world and in the
United States. These foundations today spend about 450 million dollars a
year to promote democracy and open society around the world.
When George W. Bush was elected president, and particularly after
September 11, I saw that the values and principles of open society needed to
be defended at home. September 11 led to a suspension of the critical
process so essential to a democracy - a full and fair discussion of the
issues. President Bush silenced all criticism by calling it unpatriotic.
When he said that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,"
I heard alarm bells ringing. I am afraid that he is leading us in a very
dangerous direction. We are losing the values that have made America great.
The destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center was such a
horrendous event that it required a strong response. But the President
committed a fundamental error in thinking: the fact that the terrorists are
manifestly evil does not make whatever counter-actions we take automatically
good. What we do to combat terrorism may also be wrong. Recognizing that we
may be wrong is the foundation of an open society. President Bush admits no
doubt and does not base his decisions on a careful weighing of reality. For
18 months after 9/11 he managed to suppress all dissent. That is how he
could lead the nation so far in the wrong direction.
President Bush inadvertently played right into the hands of bin Laden.
The invasion of Afghanistan was justified: that was where bin Laden lived
and al Qaeda had its training camps. The invasion of Iraq was not similarly
justified. It was President Bush's unintended gift to bin Laden.
War and occupation create innocent victims. We count the body bags of
American soldiers; there have been more than 1000 in Iraq. The rest of the
world also looks at the Iraqis who get killed daily. There have been 20
times more. Some were trying to kill our soldiers; far too many were totally
innocent, including many women and children. Every innocent death helps the
terrorists' cause by stirring anger against America and bringing them
Immediately after 9/11 there was a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy
for us worldwide. It has given way to an equally widespread resentment.
There are many more people willing to risk their lives to kill Americans
than there were on September 11 and our security, far from improving as
President Bush claims, is deteriorating. I am afraid that we have entered a
vicious circle of escalating violence where our fears and their rage feed on
each other. It is not a process that is likely to end any time soon. If we
re-elect President Bush we are telling the world that we approve his
policies - and we shall be at war for a long time to come.
I realize that what I am saying is bound to be unpopular. We are in the
grip of a collective misconception induced by the trauma of 9/11, and
fostered by the Bush administration. No politician could say it and hope to
get elected. That is why I feel obliged to speak out. There is a widespread
belief that President Bush is making us safe. The opposite is true.
President Bush failed to finish off bin Laden when he was cornered in
Afghanistan because he was gearing up to attack Iraq. And the invasion of
Iraq bred more people willing to risk their lives against Americans than we
are able to kill - generating the vicious circle I am talking about.
President Bush likes to insist that the terrorists hate us for what we
are - a freedom loving people - not what we do. Well, he is wrong on that.
He also claims that the torture scenes at Abu Graib prison were the work of
a few bad apples. He is wrong on that too. They were part of a system of
dealing with detainees put in place by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
our troops in Iraq are paying the price.
How could President Bush convince people that he is good for our
security, better than John Kerry? By building on the fears generated by the
collapse of the twin towers and fostering a sense of danger. At a time of
peril, people rally around the flag and President Bush has exploited this.
His campaign is based on the assumption that people do not really care about
the truth and they will believe practically anything if it is repeated often
enough, particularly by a President at a time of war. There must be
something wrong with us if we fall for it. For instance, some 40% of the
people still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11 - although
it is now definitely established by the 9/11 Commission, set up by the
President and chaired by a Republican, that there was no connection. I want
to shout from the roof tops: "Wake up America. Don't you realize that we are
President Bush has used 9/11 to further his own agenda which has very
little to do with fighting terrorism. There was an influential group within
the Bush administration led by Vice President Dick Cheney that was itching
to invade Iraq long before 9/11. The terrorist attack gave them their
chance. If you need a tangible proof why President Bush does not deserve to
be re-elected, consider Iraq.
The war in Iraq was misconceived from start to finish - if it has a
finish. It is a war of choice, not necessity, in spite of what President
Bush says. The arms inspections and sanctions were working. In response to
American pressure, the United Nations had finally agreed on a strong stand.
As long as the inspectors were on the ground, Saddam Hussein could not
possibly pose a threat to our security. We could have declared victory but
President Bush insisted on going to war.
We went to war on false pretences. The real reasons for going into Iraq
have not been revealed to this day. The weapons of mass destruction could
not be found, and the connection with al Qaeda could not be established.
President Bush then claimed that we went to war to liberate the people of
Iraq. All my experience in fostering democracy and open society has taught
me that democracy cannot be imposed by military means. And, Iraq would be
the last place I would chose for an experiment in introducing democracy - as
the current chaos demonstrates.
Of course, Saddam was a tyrant, and of course Iraqis - and the rest of
the world - can rejoice to be rid of him. But Iraqis now hate the American
occupation. We stood idly by while Baghdad was ransacked. As the occupying
power, we had an obligation to maintain law and order, but we failed to live
up to it. If we had cared about the people of Iraq we should have had more
troops available for the occupation than we needed for the invasion. We
should have provided protection not only for the oil ministry but also the
other ministries, museums and hospitals. Baghdad and the country's other
cities were destroyed after we occupied them. When we encountered
resistance, we employed methods that alienated and humiliated the
population. The way we invaded homes, and the way we treated prisoners
generated resentment and rage. Public opinion condemns us worldwide.
The number of flipflops and missteps committed by the Bush
administration in Iraq far exceeds anything John Kerry can be accused of.
First we dissolved the Iraqi army, then we tried to reconstitute it. First
we tried to eliminate the Baathists, then we turned to them for help. First
we installed General Jay Garner to run the country, then we gave it to Paul
Bremer and when the insurgency became intractable, we installed an Iraqi
government. The man we chose was a protégé of the CIA with the reputation of
a strong man - a far cry from democracy. First we attacked Falluja over the
objections of the Marine commander on the ground, then pulled them out when
the assault was half-way through, again over his objections. "Once you
commit, you got to stay committed," he said publicly. More recently, we
started bombing Falluja again.
The Bush campaign is trying to put a favorable spin on it, but the
situation in Iraq is dire. Much of the Western part of the country has been
ceded to the insurgents. Even the so-called Green Zone (a small enclave in
the center of Baghdad where Americans live and work) is subject to mortar
attacks. The prospects of holding free and fair elections in January are
fast receding and civil war looms. President Bush received a somber
intelligence evaluation in July but he has kept it under wraps and failed to
level with the electorate.
Bush's war in Iraq has done untold damage to the United States. It has
impaired our military power and undermined the morale of our armed forces.
Before the invasion of Iraq, we could project overwhelming power in any part
of the world. We cannot do so any more because we are bogged down in Iraq.
Afghanistan is slipping from our control. North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and
other countries are pursuing nuclear programs with renewed vigor and many
other problems remain unattended.
By invading Iraq without a second UN resolution, we violated
international law. By mistreating and even torturing prisoners, we violated
the Geneva conventions. President Bush has boasted that we do not need a
permission slip from the international community, but our actions have
endangered our security - particularly the security of our troops.
Our troops were trained to project overwhelming power. They were not
trained for occupation duties. Having to fight an insurgency saps their
morale. Many of our troops return from Iraq with severe trauma and other
psychological disorders. Sadly, many are also physically injured. After
Iraq, it will be difficult to recruit people for the armed forces and we may
have to resort to conscription.
There are many other policies for which the Bush administration can be
criticized but none are as important as Iraq. Iraq has cost us nearly 200
billion dollars - an enormous sum. It could have been used much better
elsewhere. The costs are going to mount because it was much easier to get
into Iraq than it will be to get out of there. President Bush has been
taunting John Kerry to explain how he would do things differently in Iraq.
John Kerry has responded that he would have done everything differently and
he would be in a better position to extricate us than the man who got us in
there. But it won't be easy for him either, because we are caught in a
It is a quagmire that many predicted. I predicted it in my book, The
Bubble of American Supremacy. I was not alone: top military and diplomatic
experts desperately warned the President not to invade Iraq. But he ignored
their experienced advice. He suppressed the critical process. The discussion
about Iraq remains stilted even during this presidential campaign because of
the notion that any criticism of our Commander-in-Chief puts our troops at
risk. But this is Bush's war, and he ought to be held responsible for it.
It's the wrong war, fought the wrong way. Step back for a moment from the
cacophony of the election campaign and reflect: who got us into this mess?
In spite of his Texas swagger, George W. Bush does not qualify to serve as
There is a lot more to be said on the subject and I have said it in my
book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, now available in paperback. I hope
you will read it. You can download the chapter on the Iraqi quagmire free
from George Soros.com.
If you find my arguments worth considering, please share this message
with your friends.
I would welcome your comments at George Soros.com. I am eager to engage
in a critical discussion because the stakes are so high.
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