Wayne Madsen - Bush's Military & Political Reality
From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release May 30, 2004
Bush "Stays Course" on Iraq Plan But Confronts Difficult Military and Political Reality
- Interview with Wayne Madsen, investigative reporter, formerly with the National Security Agency, conducted by Scott Harris
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Almost daily, the Bush administration has been battered by bad news from Iraq. The focus on investigations into the U.S. military's torture of prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison was momentarily overshadowed by the assassination of Izzedin Salim, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council and the U.S. raid on the offices of longtime American ally Ahmed Chalabi, now suspected of passing sensitive intelligence to the Iranian government. All this, while U.S. troops continue to battle Iraqi insurgents and a Shiite militia group.
With growing questions about the administration's competency to successfully lead the nation out of an increasingly costly war, President Bush addressed the nation on May 24 to explain his goals in Iraq. At a speech delivered at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., the president summarized his plan to hand over sovereignty to a new, as yet unnamed Iraqi interim government on June 30, leading to U.N. supervised elections in 2005. But as President Bush's approval rating in public opinion polls continues to decline, there is great skepticism that the political and military realities on the ground will cooperate.
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Wayne Madsen, investigative journalist and former National Security Agency officer, who assesses President Bush's Iraq policy, its chances for success and how the coming U.S. election may affect the conduct of the war.
Wayne Madsen: I think the Bush speech is noteworthy in that it really doesn't change very much. He's saying that he's going to stay the course as his poll numbers are plummeting down to the low 40s by some estimates. Those who disapprove of the war are now closely approaching or exceeding 60 percent. The fact that he's creating an Iraqi military chain of command doesn't negate the fact that the Iraqi military chain of command cannot refuse orders from the 138,000 U.S. forces that will remain after the transfer of power on June 30th. He's talking about tearing down Abu Ghraib prison, but the scandal as far as the United States government is concerned will continue even after that prison is torn down. There still are a lot of questions about who knew what when, who ordered what when. And this goes of course, to the very top of his administration to Rumsfeld, possibly, all the way up to Cheney.
Between The Lines: So nothing earthshaking in this speech, nothing to sway the country or the world that the U.S. is pursuing a different course. They're following the same course, it seems.
Wayne Madsen: It's basically the same course. They're now talking about a new U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by the U.S. and Britain. But what they're asking for is basically the same thing they asked for in the past. They're asking for U.N. nations to contribute troops, even though Spain, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and possibly Poland and some others have, or will shortly, pull their troops out of Iraq.
I think what's amazing is the White House circling of the wagons, instead of trying to make an outreach not only to the Democrats, to the disaffected members of the military, to the bureaucracies they've alienated, for example, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department. But there wasn't even any attempt to change the course to satisfy people within the Republican party, some noteworthy people like Sen. Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Chuck Hagel and Sen. John McCain. So, to me, I think the Bush administration, Bush himself is actually in a worse position than Lyndon Johnson was when it became pretty well-known that the Vietnam War was a quagmire. Johnson decided not to run for re-election. I don't think that we can put the Bush speech in the same category as anything like what Lyndon Johnson finally did in his address, when he realized, and his closest advisers realized, that the Vietnam War was a quagmire and the U.S. had to get out.
Between The Lines: With the transition coming up on June 30th, the symbolic transition to some Iraqi government that we don't know how that will be constituted yet, what are your concerns about the period between the transition on June 30th and election in November? What is the Bush administration likely to do to push forward their campaign for re-election and how will that play out with the growing violence that's predicted to accompany the transition?
Wayne Madsen: My fear is that they're going to put a "blackout" on bad news coming out -- that Karl Rove, will be calling those types of shots. We know that there has been a reluctance to show pictures of the flag-draped coffins coming back through Dover Air Force base. We're probably going to see cooking of the books on U.S. war dead. We may see this administration claim that a lot more people are dying in accidents than in combat. I think we're going to see a lot of tricks played by this administration. Now my hope is that the military won't stand for it, that even though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld banned digital cameras and camera phones, not only in Iraq, but this apparently affects U.S. military forces worldwide. This is just an indication of what I think is going to happen, that this war is going to be politicized, and we know that happened in Vietnam. When that was politicized, we had a lot of people that died needlessly, not only U.S. troops, but Vietnamese. I think we're going to see the same thing happen between June 30th and the election. I certainly would hope that the Democrats, especially Sen. John Kerry, who knows how wars are politicized from his experiences in Vietnam would tend not be as neutral on this as he has been and start coming out more like Eugene McCarthy and Sen. Bobby Kennedy did in 1968, and not sound so much like Joe Lieberman, for example, who still supports this senseless war.
Between The Lines: Do you think the predictions of intensifying violence following the symbolic transition June 30th will play out?
Wayne Madsen: Well, obviously, we've done nothing to better our situation with the photographs coming out of the prison now. I mean, there's a poll that 32 percent of the Iraqi people support this Muqtada Sadr, the Shiite cleric rebel we wanted to execute just a couple months ago. Now we want to negotiate with him. If that reflects the actual (opinion in Iraq), then that means 32 percent; that means the rebellion is growing, and the people who oppose the United States occupation are becoming more radicalized.
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Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( http://www.btlonline.org) for the week ending June 4, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.
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