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George Bush has already won a victory in Iraq, and we’re not talking about weapons inspectors’ access inside the country.
The administration’s beating of the war drums has drowned out the dominant stories of two months ago — the corporate scandals and failing economy.
The scandals continue to unfold, in ever more gory detail. In recent weeks, Chainsaw Al Dunlap has settled charges of financial manipulation, former GE CEO Jack Welch has renounced his obscene retirement perks, and new information surfaces almost daily on the tens of millions of dollars of shady loans and perks that Tyco granted to its executives.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to struggle. Unemployment remains high by recent standards. The stock market collapse has eaten away the retirement savings of tens of millions of people. Many experts believe the economy may return to recession.
The media still report on all of this, but not with the banner headlines of a few months ago.
Now, the coverage is focused on Iraq. While the administration has taken some lumps from those who advocate a common-sense resistance to military unilateralism and a dangerous and illegal doctrine of preemptive war, it has successfully changed the primary topic of political conversation in the United States. From a subject that had the administration on the defensive — especially as revelations continued of more and more improper or unethical actions at Dick Cheney’s Halliburton — the focus is now on a topic that plays to the administration’s strengths and ability to control information.
Of course, external events might have forced such a shift. But they did not. The administration has abandoned its claims that Iraq is involved with global terrorism. And whatever the truth about Iraq’s efforts to build nuclear weaponry, there is absolutely no evidence that there has been a step-up in the Iraqi nuclear program or that the country is anywhere near construction of a nuclear bomb.
In short, not only is there no evidence of an imminent threat from Iraq against the United States, nothing has changed in the recent period to suggest Iraq is anywhere near being a threat to the U.S.
It is the United States that has chosen to force the issue. The fanatical faction in the Bush Pentagon and White House (still counterbalanced more effectively by dissident Republicans than the Democratic Party) wants to put the United States on permanent war footing, with Iraq and Afghanistan just the beginning.
One not-so-incidental impact of the permanent war society is that war talk permanently displaces debate over economic and social justice.
The administration has already had its first victory in Iraq, simply by threatening to go to war. If the American people permit the Bush team to launch a war, we can be sure of long-term defeat for the people on the American homefront, irrespective of the outcome on the battlefield.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.)