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The First Shots of the War


The first shots of the US-Iraq war were fired on February 26. Instead of using precision guided munitions or Scuds, the primary combatants–George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein–used the medium of television to lob the first propaganda rounds.

Bush chose to use as his forum the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the rabid right-wing think tank that is as much the home for current neo-conservative war mongering as the Munich-based Thule Society was for Nazi ideology in the 1920s.

Saddam, on the other hand, chose as his venue an interview on 60 Minutes II with CBS anchor Dan Rather. The White House certainly knew it had been upstaged by Saddam. The Karl Rove/Ari Fleischer spin machine immediately demanded that CBS give a Bush spokesperson equal time. When CBS insisted the spokesperson had to be either Bush himself or Colin Powell, the White House offered up Condoleezza Rice, an uninformed mouthpiece whose endless nervous rhetoric has already nauseously filled the Sunday talking head shows with the type of drivel one can read in any White House press release.

Fortunately, CBS and Rather held their ground. Saddam definitely played to the American audience. Obviously aware of the many anti-war protest signs that referred to Bush’s lack of mental acuity, Saddam challenged the American president to an international televised debate moderated by Dan Rather. Saddam also rejected the notion that he would set fire to his oil wells and blow up his dams–allegations that have been streaming forth from the U.S. propaganda canyons of Washington’s K Street disinformation mills.

Granted, Saddam is a ruthless dictator who has gassed his own people with chemical weapons material partly supplied by Donald Rumsfeld. True, Saddam is a leader who tortures and executes his political opponents in the same spirit that other erstwhile U.S. allies, including Marcos, Mobutu, Somoza, Papadopoulos, Noriega, Reza Pahlavi, Suharto, and Pinochet, tortured and executed their own. However, Saddam’s televised peace plea coming just hours after it was revealed that Bush wanted to assassinate him in contravention of a presidential Executive Order issued by President Ford and reinforced by Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, made Bush II out to be some sort of psychopathic stalker.

But Bush’s appearance before the AEI to beat the war drums is not much different than Hitler’s annual speeches before enthusiastic Nazis at Nuremberg. NBC’s Tom Brokaw actually referred to AEI as “a venerable institution.” Rather won in the understatement category when he said that Bush chose to speak before a “politically-friendly” audience.

AEI is the cesspool for much of the anti-Arab, anti-French, anti-German, and pro-Bush nationalistic dogma that daily seeps into the speeches of senior Bush administration officials.

Lynne Cheney uses her AEI perch to call for a rewriting of American history to show the superiority of white Europeans over the non-Christian savages that either already populated the continent before the arrival of Columbus or the non-Christian slaves who were brought to the continent against their will. Cheney would have every school board in the land adopt her nursery rhymes about American history as gospel.

Much of the Bush administration foreign policy propaganda that is billed as “scholarly research” emanates from the likes of AEI’s resident scholars Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen, former Reagan administration officials. Both Perle and Ledeen tow the Ariel Sharon-Binyamin Netanyahu line that after Iraq, the next military targets must be Iran, Syria, Libya, and beyond. Their disciples are embedded in the policy making structures of the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council. These include Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Dov Zakheim, Peter Rodman, Elliott Abrams, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Eric Edelman, and John Hannah.

Leading State Department war advocate John Bolton, Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, was a senior vice president of AEI. Bolton’s deputy at State, David Wurmser, was a senior AEI fellow.

The former head of the US Central Command, General Anthony Zinni, a tough-talking Italian from Philly, summed up Perle pretty accurately in Dana Priest’s new book, “The Mission.” When Priest asked Zinni about Perle, the former Marine general responded, “Perle! Ha! A paper cut was his biggest scrape.”

Bush’s speech to the AEI was an actual case of “what goes around, comes around.” Much of the speech came right from AEI propaganda studies. It was interesting that Bush omitted Saudi Arabia when he spoke of defeating countries that financially support suicide bombers. While Saddam has funneled money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, it is clear that Saudi Arabia has provided millions of dollars more through both government and Islamic charity channels.

Bush spoke of democracy for Iraq. There is a fat chance of that now. The United States has apparently decided to allow Turkish troops into the quasi-independent northern Kurdish sector of Iraq and Saudi Arabia to have a role in Shi’ite southern Iraq. The track record of the Turks with the Kurds and the fanatic Saudi Wahhabis with the Shi’ites suggests that a post-Saddam Iraq controlled by an American pro-consul dependent on Turkish and Saudi military support will be a blood bath that would even make Saddam cringe.

Bush spoke of Palestinian statehood. This is a false flag. With the likelihood that a Hashemite King may be restored to the throne in Baghdad, it is not inconceivable that the Israeli right-wing will suggest that since Jordan and Iraq would be under one Royal House, the Palestinians in the West Bank could easily be relocated to the suzerainty of their former royal domain, meaning any part of a “democratic Iraq.” Many Palestinians have close ties to Iraq, having worked there since the Palestinian diaspora. The concept of mass relocation of people is ingrained in the mindset of AEI neo-conservatives and their allies. When Wolfowitz was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, he did not blink an eye as that dictatorship moved hundreds of thousands of Javanese Muslims to majority Christian areas of East Timor, Sulawesi, Moluccas, and West Papua. The result was bloody religious warfare and the rise of Muslim fundamentalist groups allied to Al Qaeda. And as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Wolfowitz was mum on the forced removal of minority groups by Burma’s military government and China’s mass infusion of ethnic Han Chinese into Tibet to make Tibetans a minority in their own country. With Bush so beholden to the ideologists of AEI, he just might buy off on a forced migration of Palestinians. There may even be some obscure biblical passage he could lean on to justify his actions.

Regardless, after round one of the Saddam-Bush II face-off, Saddam wins. Bush will have to continue to work hard on his audiences and his message. Saddam should brush up on his English. He admitted to Rather that he has some English fluency. For Saddam, the next appearance should be on Larry King, where he can be expected to be asked some probing questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” “Have you been following the Robert Blake trial?” and “What do you really think about George W. Bush?”

WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.

Madsen can be reached at:


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