“May day, may day.” You can take this in two ways. First, this is the day in which many working people in the world celebrate being workers. This is not the way it will be commemorated on the front lawn of the White House today. Then there is the military version of a Spitfire on fire and a pilot knowing it is time to bail out. The pilot currently occupying the White House is wielding his veto power today in order to stay the course. Since he is not yet convicted that the war is lost, he sees no need to bail out.

But let’s flash back four years to the banner day “Mission Accomplished” speech of a boastful George Bush on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln. The full speech is archived on the White House website. Four years and over 3000 American military deaths later, how does the plain-ridden rhetoric of the day stand up today? Let’s see…

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.)

Combat operations have actually expanded. One can quibble about the meaning of “major,” but the civll-war quagmire that our military has been mired into is anything but a minor irritation. The suggestion that the United States and our allies (a rather select group of the not-always-so-willing) have prevailed has turned out to be premature. Never a competent speaker, certainly not on a par with President Clinton (when he kept his pants on), President Bush may go down in history as the Great Prevailicator. Hindsight suggests his soft landing and hard sell of the Iraq War have turned into a Neville Chamberlain moment. Both predicted “peace for our time,” but time only saw the prediction fall to pieces. The White House leaves in the “applause” sign, but few of us today hear anything but the sound of one spun hand clapping.

And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

What started out as a conservative bandwagon coalition has turned into a two-man band that could be dubbed the Bush/Blair follies. Four years later many in the band have left town (and major parts of the country are still left to insurgents). Since the securing has been a dismal failure there has been little reconstruction. What little there has been is largely crumbling. Not surprisingly ordinary Iraqis are somewhat non-plussed that the world’s great superpower can’t superglue their country back together again.

Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. (Applause.)

Pottery Barn rules apply. We did indeed break a dangerous and aggressive regime, although one that we now know had nothing at all to do with Bin Laden and the September 11 bombings, but we are leaving it broke. Few Iraqis, apart from those on Saddam’s hate list, find their country less dangerous today. The thousands of civilians caught up in the mopping up operations and widespread insurgency might be surprised, if they were still alive, that there has been no violence directed against civilians. Civilians have become the main target, even in friendly-fired terms, since the start of the war. The “guilty,” whose ranks have swelled since the American invasion, are the ones creating the fear; there is no innocence left in Iraq. We should give pause to the lessons of the last four years, rather than applause for a canned neocon speech.

In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear. (Applause.)

If freedom is only measured by the number of purple-fingered voters, then perhaps Iraq has been a shining example of American-styled freedom. The decades of lies and intimidation could be stretched back thousands of years and might be applied to most of the world, no matter how you serve up your ideal of civilization. But if the time span is only decades, then perhaps we should go back to the end of World War I when the British imposed a foreigner named Feisal as a modern-day puppet king of Iraq. Iraqis were stirred after that to overthrow a king they did not choose, but up until the late 1950s they were not allowed to taste a freedom of their own choosing. Yes, Iraqis need liberty like they need food and water, but what good is freedom without enough food and potable water?

We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.

Oh, yes, those WMDs. What a genius Saddam was to be able to hide those weapons so well that the most sophisticated intelligence system in the history of the world still has not found any.

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 — and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men — the shock troops of a hateful ideology — gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the “beginning of the end of America.” By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation’s resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed. (Applause.)

The only thing that began on September 11 was a new twist in the anger many individuals and groups in the Middle East feel about previous United States foreign policy in the region. To take seriously the threat that one lucky terrorist bombing could spell the beginning of the end for America is like a man using a sledge hammer to swat a mosquito on his nose. That attack was not about destroying our resolve, but sucking us into a no-win war on terror. And Bush with his bring’em-on swagger took the bait. The War on Terror will need more than one Pyrrhic victory in a bombed-back-to-the Babylonians Iraq. Almost six years after 9/11 Bin Laden is still out there. So who has failed?

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more. (Applause.)

We removed a dictator, the second time around. But Saddam was no ally of al Qaeda while he was alive and ruling, although now he may have become one in his botched death. More terrorist funding came from Saudi Arabia than Iraq. But Bush was right about no terrorist network getting those WMDs. It is impossible, even in the insular mentality of this administration, to get something that does not exist. And that is logic you can applaud.

Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. (Applause.)

It seems that over the past four years the war proceeded according to Bush league principles, but not according to plan. One thing is certain: the conduct of this war and the political myopia of the neocon elite under Bush’s banner have created more terrorists than anyone could have imagined. Just imagine if the billions spent in waging this unwinnable war had actually been used to build hospitals and schools.

May such a day come.

Daniel Martin Varisco

[This commentary has been posted on HNN.]