Now that a constitution rejected by Sunnis and protracted civil war seem to pre-sage Iraq’s eventual dismemberment, we would do well to look back at what George Bush was thinking during the lead-up to the referendum.

In a televised speech before the National Endowment for Democracy on October 6, Bush warned that militants fighting us in Iraq want a “radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” What on Earth was he thinking?

Bush wasn’t content to mirror Bin Laden’s rhetoric. He said that “in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century.” Apparently, he wants us to see the world as being fundamentally split on the issue of Islamic terrorism.

Can you imagine US funding for a war against the mullahs in Central America, or a witch hunt to find Islamic sympathizers in the State Department?

Bush is oft-criticized for trying to frame foreign policy in deceptively black-and-white terms rather than discuss the deeper, underlying question of US manipulations abroad. Some say Bush failed to develop a complex, informed analysis of foreign affairs during his youthful years. As Bush says, he rarely reads the newspapers; he just skims the headlines and lets his advisors fill him in on the details. Others suggest that he never cared about the disadvantaged in the first place. *One of his former professors at Yale says Bush once told his class that “poor people are poor because they’re lazy.”

Two years after Bush told us Saddam might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists like Bin Laden, Bush still hasn’t learned from his mistakes. Two weeks ago, amid growing scandal over the Cheney/Libby role in the Valerie Plame case, Bush trumpeted his familiar remark that Iraq is the “central front in our war against terror.” He fails to see the irony in such statements.

LA Times writer/editor Robert Scheer wrote that “thousands of lives and billions of dollars have been spent deposing a defanged dictatorship that posed no immediate threat to the U.S., creating a terrorist jungle in its place. We can describe the situation in Iraq today as ‘mission accomplished’ only if our goal was to unite fanatical Islamic jihadis with their longtime enemies, the secular nationalist Baathists…. This Pandora's box once opened cannot be shut by shoving a few ex-Baathists into the new Baghdad government, as urged by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her photo-op visit last weekend… By all accounts, the disparate elements of the Iraqi insurgency do agree on one thing: their desire to drive the U.S. military out. Thus, the U.S. presence is the fuel for the conflagration it claims to be stamping out.” (Scheer column on AlterNet, 5-17-05)

In his Oct. 6 speech Bush said, “Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power—and so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq.” It sounds strange when Bush, who once said killing so many in Iraq would cost him a part of his soul, talks of defeating “the heart” of an enemy. Not content to merely brand those who would expel a foreign occupier “the enemy,” Bush suggested that if we leave Iraq, Zarqawi and Bin Laden will actually be in control there.

As one legislator asked recently, “What color is the sun under which you walk, Mr. Bush?”

No matter what the objective in Iraq, a more realistic president wouldn’t waste much time lecturing the Iraqis about “the enemy” among them. To Iraqis, strident rhetoric of the sort may sound as though Bush seeks to divide and conquer in order to control their oilfields. A more cautious president would step back and acknowledge the uncertainties in the predicament, then do what he could to either bring about a reconciliation, or, failing that, a re-division of Iraq along lines that can endure peacefully--with UN backing.

In either case, Iraq now resembles the mess that Colin Powell once cautioned against: we broke it, but we have little or no chance to actually “own it.” Meanwhile, Bush seems to think otherwise. The US occupation of Iraq continues to line the pockets of crony corporations like Halliburton and Carlyle.

220 billion dollars later, both the war and the US economy resemble a brightly-painted, yet fragile old cup. Worse yet, Bush doesn’t see how the misguided policies of today can come to haunt us in the future—when foreign creditors might say, no, they won’t lend money needed for their internal outlays to fund the bizarrely overgrown debt of a militaristic empire.

Although Bush pretends that we are loved by the Iraqis, their violence tells a different story. In a survey done in August by an Iraqi university research group for the British government 82 per cent of Iraqis said they are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops in Iraq.

Taken as a whole, Bush’s false alarms and Katrina ineptitude have dropped his support to a 39 percent level, which isn’t good for a self-proclaimed “war president.” By rushing to depose Saddam under false pretenses, by deliberately confusing Iraq with the war against Bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bush gave us reason to believe that he intended to obscure his objectives in Iraq right from the start.

Yesterday, when the Iraqi referendum count was announced, Bush told us to prepare for more casualties while fighting “as brutal an enemy as we have ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of common humanity and by the rules of warfare.”

Coming from a man who demands that the world grant his nation immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity, a man who condones the torture of combatants caught up in a grandiose scheme to remake the Middle East in the US corporate image, such words seem most ironic.

Some want to say it’s all the fault of Cheney and the neo-cons. Others say the US presidency is just a peacock throne because the families who own the corporations hold the real power, followed by corporate management, whose power is secondary (and then come presidents and other politicians, whose power is merely tertiary, at best).

If such is the case, we need to re-define the very premise of government--the basic commonality within the people, which tends to be romanticized as though it were but rough cloth, a servile thing of sorts to be stolen away on the lance of prince and rendered accordingly. We need a higher order kind of citizenship.

--G.L., writer and investigative researcher in Davis, CA