Speaking recently about the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush ’68 told the American people, “If I didn’t believe we could succeed, I wouldn’t be there.” As if he expected that we should blindly follow his belief.
If this country acted on the beliefs of the president, there would be no gay marriage controversy because Bush “believes” that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a president who said, according to Mahmoud Abbas, “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.” The same president has gone on record claiming, “It’s the executive branch’s job to interpret the law.” Remember, this is a man who said, “I believe — I believe what I believe is right.” That’s a lot of belief.
The purpose of this piece is not to cast doubt on George W. Bush’s grasp of the English language or challenge his knowledge of the three branches of the federal government. Rather, it is to challenge the environment that the current president has created — an environment where the commander-in-chief’s belief is sufficient cause for action, even in the face of political opposition or inconvenient facts. Aided and abetted equally by his cronies in Congress as by the Democratic Party’s complete lack of anything resembling a spine, Bush has engendered a political climate that runs counter to the very principles of representative democracy.
When governments elsewhere in the world cause death and destruction on the whim of one man, we call them tyrannies and demand regime change. When ours sacrifices hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of soldiers on the whim of a narrowly elected chief executive and Karl Rove’s avalanche of talking points, we call it democracy. If the president’s belief is the only reason that our troops are dying in Iraq today, they should be withdrawn immediately. A truly democratic representative government should not and cannot tolerate costly foreign wars fought on the basis of the president’s “belief.” Democrats in Congress should be clamoring for an investigation into the war. More Republicans in Congress should stop mindlessly rubber-stamping the president’s agenda. The country as a whole should demand a thorough and intensive debate on the reasons our troops are dying in Iraq. Instead, we have a president who blindly stays the course despite the fact that the news coming out of Iraq grows bleaker every day.
The situation in Iraq is truly a dilemma. There are viable arguments both for staying and for leaving. The war in Iraq is a situation that demands action from our entire government: We need to find out what went wrong, find out what we can do better and punish those responsible for the debacle. We need to have a true and honest debate on the merits of the war. Congress needs to resume its position as the most powerful branch of our government, as a check on the executive branch, as an active and representative body. In short, the United States needs to start acting more like the greatest democracy on Earth and less like an aggressive, petty tyranny.
Maybe President Bush spoke prophetically (instead of incorrectly) when he said that the executive branch had the duty of interpreting the law. If this country continues to blindly follow the whims of our leader, even when his belief causes costly wars and massive deficits, we won’t need a judicial branch much anymore. Or a legislature, for that matter. I’m not saying that our leaders shouldn’t have beliefs. I’m merely saying that their beliefs should be held up to democratic scrutiny before they become our nation’s policies.
Xan White is a freshman in Calhoun College.