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Polls in the United States show unprecedented support for George W. Bush and his leadership in the victory of the world’s sole super-power over the destitute nation of Afghanistan, and its rag-tag Taliban government. Bush has become enormously popular and empowered by war. He is cheered on by a jingoistic and flag-waving media, from pandering pundits and admiring anchors to the travel industry employing Bush’s visage in television commercials telling you that to be a good American and help win the war, you must hurry and buy your tickets. Bush destroyed the tattered Taliban in Afghanistan with a mighty display of hi-tech bombing aided by local warlords and warriors on the ground. He and his fellow warlords in Washington are planning where and how to keep the war momentum going now that the “the most evil one,” Osama bin-Laden, appears to have vamoosed. In his Texas cowboy cockiness that thinly disguises his rich Ivy League frat boy roots, Bush has said he would get Osama “dead, or alive,” but, at least for now, the object of the greatest manhunt since Jesse James has escaped the noose.
Luckily, for George W., the perfect stand-in for the elusive Osama bin Laden is the arch-villain of his father, Saddam Hussein. Under his father, President George H. W. Bush’s leadership, Saddam’s relatively affluent country of Iraq was reduced to poverty by the Persian-Gulf War of 1991 and by the U.S.-driven economic sanctions continuing since the War. In that War, more bombs were dropped on Iraq than the total dropped by both sides in all of World War II. An estimated 150,000 Iraqis were killed with at least 1,000,000 more dying since due to the economic sanctions. The elder Bush demonized Saddam as another Hitler, but withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq before finishing off Saddam Hussein and his government after Kuwaiti oil fields were secured for U.S. oil interests. The elder Bush also received the adulation of the American public with favorable ratings of 90% in the polls at the height of the patriotic fervor of winning the war against Iraq. The passion of patriotism cooled with the layoffs of a recession and the elder Bush lost the election to Bill Clinton in 1992. But now the war against terrorism is an all-encompassing global struggle, so with Cowboy George, it is on to other impoverished Islamic countries “who might be harboring terrorists.”
While there is military action brewing in the squalor of smaller Muslim countries like Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, the big enchilada for Cowboy George the younger could be Iraq. Saddam is like Osama in that he came into his own in militaristic terrorism in a United States-backed war against Iran in the 1980s, killing 1,000,000 people – much like the U.S. recruited Osama into the military business as a mujahedeen leader to terrorize the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the early 1980s. Anthrax cultures were supplied to Iraq by a Virginia firm, the American Type Culture Collection Company in 1985. Saddam has been demonized as a fiendish monster for more than ten years and there is an ol’ family score to settle.
Cowboy George has demanded Iraq allow U.N. inspections for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons or they will find out what happens if they don’t. Scott Ritter, an ex-U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from the United States, has repeatedly said that such weapons had “been destroyed or rendered harmless by 1998.” On December 20, the New York Times ran a front page story about a “defector” from Iraq, who is Kurdish and a member of a group opposing Hussein called the Iraqi National Congress. He said he was an engineer who had “personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.” The story said the Iraqi defector “had been interviewed twice by American intelligence officials” according to “government experts.”
On December 19, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said, “The evidence is increasingly looking like it was a domestic source” in reference to the anthrax spores used to kill five Americans in mail attacks. The Associated Press reported on December 19 that several government laboratories are being investigated who conducted anthrax research for the CIA and the Department of Defense. The labs received samples form the U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Military officials have also admitted that the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah has been working with anthrax for bio-warfare since 1992. Last summer the Bush administration killed the inspection enforcement provision of the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention saying it might expose the industrial secrets of U.S. biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies.
Cowboy George wears his white hat into the continuing war against evil ones like Saddam Hussein to the praise of an adoring American public and Congress. On December 19 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution by Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina by a vote of 392-12 that names Iraq as “a mounting threat to the United States, its allies, and international peace and security.” The same day, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned the United States against attacking Iraq and said it would “exacerbate the situation and raise tensions in a region that is already under strain.”
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina.