With U.S. troops seizing control of Baghdad, a triumphant and self-congratulatory mood is enveloping the Bush administration. Bush is aglow as the self-appointed liberator and champion of a democratic Iraq and Middle East while Rumsfeld is acting like the first great freedom warrior of the 21st century. Their arrogance makes former Secretary of State and war criminal Henry Kissinger seem positively humble.

Not to be outdone, much of the corporate media is gushing over the efficiency and power of the Pentagon’s killing machine, hailing the wisdom of the Commander-in-Chief and justifying the occupation of Iraq, which – only coincidentally, the White House claims – is strategically located in the world’s most oil-rich region.

In the face of all this reverential and self-reverential rhetoric, it is necessary to remind ourselves that no amount of success on the battlefield in Iraq confers moral and political legitimacy on the Bush administration’s decision to wage war against a fourth-rate military power and to ignore international law and public opinion.

Indeed, this war should never have been fought. There was no imminent threat from the Iraqi regime. Diplomatic solutions to the crisis were far from exhausted. The inspections were working and gaining momentum. And allowing for more time offered the real possibility to resolve the crisis without the use of force. In short, this war was unnecessary and illegal.

Had the Bush administration acceded to the wishes of the UN, no blood would have been spilled. No soldiers would have found themselves in harm’s way. No child would have been orphaned or traumatized by the horror of war. And thousands of homes, schools, hospitals, nurseries, water systems, bridges, highways, and businesses would not have been destroyed.

Nevertheless, White House policy makers, with dreams of an endless stream of oil reserves and a world empire within their reach, put their invasion plans on fast-forward. They refused to be deterred by the “rule of law” or the mass peace sentiments in the U.S. and worldwide.

This doesn’t surprise me. For gathered in the White House are a cast of characters who have little respect for the preciousness of life in Iraq or anywhere else, including our own country.

In fact, this administration represents the foulest face of U.S. imperialism. And its ambitions to impose by brute force its control over Iraq and the world have their domestic counterpart in the relentless assault on the living standards and rights of the people of the United States.

Bush policy makers, of course, will yell “foul” when they hear this. But actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps never has this been so evident as it was over the past three weeks. While bombs and missiles were “shocking and awing” in Iraq, the Bush domestic policy team and their right wing Congressional counterparts were “slashing and burning” in Washington.

With the attention of the nation on the war, these scoundrels are attempting to gut programs that are vital to the great majority of the American people. Perhaps the most outrageous – and the most revealing – are the proposed cuts in veteran’s benefits.

Is it simply ironic that those who claim to be the biggest defenders of the troops are planning to cut already woefully inadequate benefits for veterans? No. Their patriotism is phony, their rhetoric is demagogic and their loyalties lie with the most reactionary section of the transnational corporations.

These lessons are not lost on the American people. With each passing day they see more clearly how the war and occupation are being utilized to secure corporate economic interests in Iraq and the Middle East. They are increasingly dubious about the administration’s claim to be motivated by the desire to spread democracy and freedom. They see the linkage between the Bush war drive in distant lands and the growing economic crisis, unemployment, budget cuts and attacks on civil rights and liberties here at home. This understanding has already slowed down the administration’s offensive, and sets the stage for a powerful, labor-led people’s victory against Bush and the far right in the 2004 elections.

Sam Webb is the national chairman of the Communist Party USA and can be reached at swebb@cpusa.org

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