FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Phoney Debate on Iraq

by Will Youmans

This may surprise you: something like a debate has broken in Washington DC over a foreign policy question. And, to make things even more interesting, it is playing out in the media. It appears that the near-stalemate between the State Department’s multilateralists or as some call them, realists, and the Pentagon/Department of War/Reaganite crowd has spilled over into the wonderful world of partisan bickering. One side of that back-room debate, the hawkish unilateralists (headed by Rumsfeld/Perle/Wolfowitz) decided to “go public.”

The Democrats’ arguments fall closer to the State department’s, which are few and simple: 1) Bush has to “make the case” for war on Iraq. That means prove that Saddam Hussein has chemical or nuclear weapons. 2) Bush must get support for attack from other countries in the world, especially from Europe and the states surrounding Iraq (which has been a failure thus far). 3) Specify the extent of the commitment or resources, troops, money etc. this project is estimated to cost. 4) Involve the people in the decision-making, or better yet Congress. 5) and some are calling for a program of nation-building. The first point is the main one Democrats are repeating, and the rest get less airplay.

My main impression is that the Democrats are carefully positioning themselves with domestic politics in mind. They know a war on Iraq would boost Dubya – who is probably slow-moving against Iraq since his election is still two plus years away – and be detrimental for their own electoral ambitions; but so would taking a principled stance against attacking. So they are setting a higher standard for the US war machine to begin revving.

What our liberal friends in the beltway are not doing is providing a solid position against invading Iraq. Like the big softies they are, Dems are warning that we should seriously weigh the consequences first with a public debate. Right. If it were true, it would be another obstacle since this is a debate the public is tremendously undereducated to participate in anyways. Just a decade ago, the American public was fired up by Bush Sr,’s comparison of Hussein to Adolf Hitler. This analogy struck those who know about the Middle East as odd since Nazi Germany was a major world power and Iraq had the GDP of Kentucky (which is to say nothing about the Osama bin Laden as Hitler analogy often repeated since 9-11). Since then, Hussein proved to be harmless to anyone but his own population, who ended up being more victimized and destroyed by the US/UN’s systematically murderous folly known as the sanctions.

The Dems are banking on the absence of the moral clarity that Bush had with Afghanistan (which media miraculously refer to as a success despite the obvious failure of the primary objective — to catch or kill bin Laden). I totally interpret the Democrats’ arguments in the context of domestic political posturing. They are trying to deny Bush access to a political goldmine. Americans, like most people, tend to rally around the flag during times of war and, to be partially redundant, before sporting events.

One obvious test is to go back and look at what the Dems were saying when Clinton made militaristic moves for his own domestic expediency: Operation Desert Fox against Iraq, and the missile attacks on Afghanistan and a Sudanese baby milk factory (or was it a pharmaceutical plant) timed to coincide with key hearings on the Lewinsky deflowerment scandal. They were quite uninterested in cases being made for those actions, though Clinton did atleast go through the measure of prevaricating, I mean prefabricating, a pretense with those weapons inspectors who voluntarily left Iraq under the guise that Hussein made their jobs undoable. This suggests the model for creating a pretense, which many old policy hacks such as Snowcroft and Kissinger suggest.

I would not confuse this posturing and early electoral maneuvering with debate. Debate is where one side has a position and the other side has another, usually opposite view. Here, there is no disagreement as to whether the United States has a right to attack Iraq. That is the fundamental assumption both “sides” accepts. The Dems are very far off the mark with their main concerns. Everyone in the world agrees that Saddam Hussein should not be in power. The question for debate is does the United States have the right to do it. Right now, both the Dems and the Republicans say yes to that. What in the Democratic position prevents Bush from inventing a pretense?

Still, part of me is glad they are discussing something. It makes people more likely to read my rants. More importantly, it clearly demonstrates the utter narrowness of foreign policy discourse. The most objectionable premises are accepted as natural right. What is most fascinating is that the existence of this deluge of talking head-exchange demonstrates that Iraq’s threat is not imminent – the standard for invasion provided by a liberal reading of applicable international law, another topic interestingly absent from these discussions. Plus, if Iraq’s danger was so real, why are all of the most vulnerable neighbors against any military action?

Finally, that points to the funny timing of this whole movement for attacking Iraq: it comes when Iraq is militarily at its lowest point since Saddam Hussein came to power. Ironically, when Hussein was at his most barbaric and war-mongering, he was an ally and recipient of American dollars and, yes, chemical weapons. Maybe his weakness is why certain American officials want him out. The key for many of them is regional stability, and a de-legitimized leader sitting on one of the greatest oil reserves in the world is not something they want to leave to chance.

Oil. There is another word we are not hearing enough of in this so-called debate.

Will Youmans can be reached at: wyoumans@umich.edu

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail