Blind to Blunders

by Daniel Belkin | 10/20/04 5:00am

What's the difference between Achilles, Antigone and President Bush?

All three have hubris, but at least Achilles and Antigone would have had sense not to invite Iraqi insurgents to "bring it on."

Last month, Bush proudly declared that he would do "everything" the same way in Iraq all over again -- just not in deciding to invade, but in the actual planning and execution of the war itself. At that moment, you could hear the collective sound of every reasonable person's jaw hitting the floor.

Does Bush sincerely believe he made no mistakes in the planning and conduct of the war in Iraq?

Perhaps he should ask the hordes of Al-Qaida terrorists that freely poured into Iraq after the fall of Baghdad because there were not enough troops to secure the nation's borders. Or ask the families of American soldiers who were forced to buy body armor for their sons and daughters because the administration left 40,000 soldiers without body armor. Maybe ask the National Guard servicemen and servicewomen who are now suffering from a backdoor draft as a direct result of the President's poor pre-war planning.

The truth, contrary to what chief White House political adviser Karl Rove may want you to know, is that fundamental mistakes were made, just not in Iraq but on a broad spectrum of domestic and foreign policy, and the United States is now bearing the brunt of those mistakes.

The President blinds himself of his mistakes because according to the image that the Republican National Committee spends hundreds of millions of dollars to paint of the Administration, the President does not make mistakes. He is a flight-suit wearing, "strong, unwavering leader" that does not second guess, even if that reality is a botched and misguided occupation of Iraq.

In April 2004, Bush was asked during a rare primetime televised press conference what was his "biggest" post-Sept. 11, 2001 mistake and the lesson he learned from it. The President responded, "I just haven' t-- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

In the second presidential debate, seven months after the press conference, with plenty of time to think of a reasonable answer, Bush was asked the same reasonable question, to which he poignantly declared, "I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them." He deferred the responsibility of evaluating his administration's to the "historians." Wouldn't it be responsible leadership to identify the mistakes now and address them so that the historians will have a rosier history to write? Then again, they will make those judgments way after Election Day.

Mistakes need to be identified so that they can be fixed. Under Bush's watch, two of the greatest intelligence failures in American history occurred: the failure to detect the Sept. 11 plot and the faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, Bush stood by Central Intelligence Director George Tenet, who assured the President that the case for Iraqi WMD was a "slam dunk" and presided over a dysfunctional intelligence agency marred with incompetence. After the stockpiles of WMD were not found, what does Bush's willingness to trust Tenet reveal about his judgment? Such a man is "unfit for command."

From the intelligence failure leading up to Sept. 11, 2001 to the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal, President Bush has constantly "passed the buck" and failed to hold subordinates responsible. It is ineffably outrageous that no one has been held accountable for the faulty WMD intelligence. For the sake of American security, President Bush needs to actively root out the ineffective employees in his administration, such as George Tenet, who voluntarily resigned for "personal reasons." However, the administration would rather present an image of a steady White House to the public. Such sensible re-evaluations do not conform to Karl Rove's talking points.

Don't attack so-called "America-hating-liberals" for wanting the President to question himself while the nation is at war. In 1961, President Kennedy took full responsibility for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and fired those in his administration that planned the operation. Through demanding accountability from his staff, President Kennedy ensured the most capable national security team and thus, better provided for American security.

Come Nov. 2, Bush's hubris will catch up with him. No, he will not gauge his eyes out like Oedipus. Rather, the American electorate will demand the need for accountability in its federal government, which has been sorely missing the past four years.

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