Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Bush’s War Drive


One better think twice before supporting Bush’s initiative to launch an attack on Iraq if only because war, as Martin Luther King pointed out, is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrows.

A good way to grasp the logic underlying Bush’s plan is by examining the intricate mechanisms his Administration is using to shape public opinion, the most conspicuous of which are distraction, fear, and self-adulation.

DISTRACTION. The Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro film Wag the Dog was a comical expression of this strategy, which is currently being put to use in ways more cynical than the movie producers imagined.

Considering that Saddam Hussein’s modus operandi has not changed in the past few years, the urgency with which the Bush administration is pushing the war against Iraq at this particular moment in history requires an explanation. Not surprisingly, the answer lies very close to home.

Bush’s war cry succeeded in sidelining widespread corporate corruption, which made headlines right before his combative designs were revealed. Enron, Worldcom and the like are no longer under the limelight.

The call to arms has also been used to suppress figures pointing to the rising number of poor Americans, which reached 32.9 million, an increase of 1.3 million from the year before. The Census Bureau’s annual report on income and poverty provided evidence that the weakening economy is beginning to a have detrimental affect on large segments of society, regardless of race, region and class. I, for one, don’t see CNN spending much time covering poverty and its threat to American society.

Along the same lines, civil liberties, worker’s rights, and the environment have all been under attack by this Administration, and only recently have citizen groups managed to mobilize and fight back. What could be more effective than a war to deflect mounting domestic criticism?

FEAR. In order to convince the public that the Iraqi campaign is not simply being used to distract the public from pressing issues at home, a real and present danger must be created.

Just two years before the Gulf War, President Bush — the father — stood by without a murmur of protest as Saddam Hussein massacred 100,000 Kurds. The relation to Iraq’s premier changed dramatically when he invaded Kuwait, thus threatening U.S. interests in the Middle East, which come down to one thing: access and control of oil. Overnight Hussein was transformed from a Third World ally into an evil monster, a modern day Hitler. It worked then, and it is working now.

We are currently being told that Hussein is dangerous because he has access to weapons of mass destruction. Considering, however, that most countries in the Middle East possess chemical weapons, including Israel, Egypt, Syria and probably Saudi Arabia, the “preemptive” elimination of Iraq’s weapons program is, to say the least, peculiar. It’s really about whose a friend and whose a foe, not about weapons.

The Administration is not taking any risks, however, and recently decided to spread its eggs among a few baskets. Suddenly Saddam Hussein is not merely a recalcitrant tyrant who has weapons of mass destruction, but, in Bush’s words, a man who hates America, loves to link up with Al Qaeda, and is a true threat to America.

Ironically, Israel’s Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, who is not known for his dovish opinions, recently averred, “Iraq’s capabilities are shallow compared to what they were in the Gulf War. They are not capabilities that give me sleepless nights.”

If Israel isn’t worried, why, one might ask, is Bush?

SELF-ADULATION. The Bush Administration justifies its actions by engendering a sense that Uncle Sam not only knows better, but is also more responsible and righteous than any other country. This tactic produces a certain type of patriotism used to avert all forms of criticism, as can be seen by how the Administration’s seemingly omnipresent knowledge and moral high ground is employed to counter the claims made by an overwhelming number of countries that adamantly reject Bush’s war plans.

Just envision the good that could be done if an extra 100 or 200 billion dollars — the war’s estimated cost! — were allocated to education, training programs and creating new jobs. The public education system would receive a vital injection and millions of people could finally exit the vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation. Wouldn’t that be a more worthy endeavor than the one Bush is pursuing?

“To be a patriot,” Mark Twain once wrote, “one had to say, and keep on saying, ‘Our country, right or wrong,’ and urge on the little war.” And then Twain added, “Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?”

NEVE GORDON teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, Israel and can be reached at Some of his articles recently appeared in The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin (The New Press 2002).

Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future