Aid and Comfort
    By William Rivers Pitt
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Monday 14 November 2005

    The old chestnut has been hauled out in public again: if you do not support the war, if you do not support Bush, you are betraying our troops and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It's an oldie but a goodie. It is worthwhile, in the face of this resurgent nonsense, to take a long, hard look at what "aid and comfort" really is.

    George W. Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq - and it was his decision, as he made clear when he said it was "perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war" in his ham-fisted Veterans Day speech last week - has done more to increase the fortunes of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden than any war critic ever could.

    The invasion and occupation of Iraq has created a rallying point for extremists all across the Muslim world, and has given them a marvelous opportunity to refine their murderous craft by constructing bombs that kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians every single day. There were no al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq before this occupation. Now, there are lots of them, and they are getting plenty of practice.

    The invasion and occupation of Iraq allowed Osama "bin Dead and Alive" Laden to slip the noose set for him in Afghanistan. We had him cornered up there in the mountains near the Pakistani border, but our best troops and equipment were pulled out and sent to Iraq instead. Maybe Osama is already dead - like his friend Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been reported killed approximately four hundred and thirteen times, only to constantly resurface as the mastermind of a dozen bombings and attacks - and maybe not. The fact that he was never captured, tried and convicted for his crimes, the fact that he may still be out there, is a boon to those who have flocked to his banner. Aid and comfort indeed.

    The decision to allow the torture of detainees in Iraq - a decision that came directly from both Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, according to former administration outsider Lawrence Wilkerson - gave the world the horrific images of Abu Ghraib. When those photographs hit the Arab street, they provided inspiration for thousands of people in Iraq and elsewhere to give their lives to the idea that killing American soldiers is a nifty and necessary thing to do. It was the best recruitment drive for al Qaeda that could have ever been conceived.

    And there are more photographs to come.

    The decision to invade Iraq has made the world less safe. Look at the wreckage left behind by the bombing of those hotels in Jordan last week. The perpetrators were not hardened al Qaeda veterans who learned to fight in the Hindu Kush by killing Russians on behalf of the Reagan administration. The perpetrators were all Iraqis. Mr. Bush's misbegotten adventure in Iraq has left the nest, and is spreading out into the wider world.

    The decision by Bush and his administration to use wildly questionable sources in order to scare the American people into supporting the war has been a great aid and comfort to those who now kill American soldiers so far from home. Take, for example, the use by Bush and his people of the information provided by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (whose name, loosely translated, means "I've been a shaky alibi"). Al-Libi told his interrogators that al Qaeda was all over the place in Iraq before the war. A multitude of intelligence officials, including the folks at the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned that al-Libi was lying through his teeth. It turns out, in the end, that he was; he recanted all of his testimony in 2004. Yet even with these warnings, Bush & Co. used his words to justify their war.

    Now here's a good question: why would al-Libi lie about an al Qaeda presence in Iraq? Could it be that he did so in order to provide Bush with justification for an attack? Could it be that al-Libi and his masters wanted Bush to invade Iraq, so bin Laden could get his international rallying cry while simultaneously disposing of Saddam Hussein, whom bin Laden hated and despised?

    In other words, did Bush do exactly, precisely what Osama bin Laden wanted him to?

    The decision by Bush to chuck up this invasion and occupation has made the United States wildly vulnerable. The US military is in horrible shape; recruitment is down to historic lows, veterans whose wisdom and expertise are necessary for the care and maintenance of the line are refusing to re-enlist, and the Treasury has been utterly looted. There are enemies of this country out there, and there are threats of dire consequence. The damage done to our fighting men and women, to the military institutions that protect us, has left us dangerously unable to respond should one of those enemies choose to make a move.

    Finally, Bush's close and cuddly friendship with the House of Saud has been an incredible aid and comfort to terrorists throughout the world. Saudi Arabia, with its vast revenues and its Wahabbist extremism, is the birthing bed of international terrorism. Yet nary a word is whispered about this, because the House of Saud and the House of Bush have been umbilically connected for decades. Our worst enemies, our deadliest foes, the enablers of those who would kill and maim among our soldiers and civilians, have an open invitation to dinner at the White House every time they decide to go to Washington.

    But that's just business, right?

    George Washington once said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were Treated and Appreciated by their nation." Defenders of the Bush administration can argue that war critics are harming our troops until their faces turn blue. The real harm being done to our troops, the real aid and comfort being provided to the enemy, is not coming from the Democratic party or from the activist street. It is coming from the very men and women who hide behind the troops, who use such rhetoric to deflect the consequences of their folly.

    Don't let it stand.

    William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.