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Iraq War

by SAUL LANDAU

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Congratulations to George W. Bush, winner and still champion after defeating a highly ranked heavyweight contender! Indeed, the heroic U.S. victory in Iraq should engrave 43’s name in the history books. The Bush Doctrine means fighting “preemptive” wars with disarmed nations that in the very distant future might conceivably threaten U.S. interests. In Christian lore, the U.S. invasion of Iraq will find its justification in the first three words of the adage: “Do unto others…”

The biblical talk overflowed from the White House, but military commanders, under orders from their civilian bosses, dispatched troops to protect the oilfields while other U.S. soldiers, also under orders, stood by and allowed if not encouraged the destruction of the very sacred relics to which the Bible refers. “Praise God and speak reverently of His works, but watch carefully over your newly acquired treasure,” the Bible should have said.

The gap between words and deeds should make people laugh as we already hear threats of the next war. Those who screamed loudest in Congress about supporting our troops cut their benefits. No matter! The headlines and lead stories barely reported that. Instead, we saw on TV the American flag – flying high and being waved, of course. A good section of the anxious U.S. public seems eager to accept as truth any nonsense uttered from the White House and repeated in the media. Use God early and often in each speech!

“Let the word go forth,” George Bush (43) has chosen war as his (or His) method of forging peace — and getting re-elected. Taking his orders from his own special Christian God and his brilliant political manipulators, Bush has set out on a divine mission of “liberation.” The billion people who adhere to the Islamic faith – do they share a collective memory of the Crusades? – should feel rightfully apprehensive.

With the bodies of Iraqis still unburied and the once fabled ancient treasures either missing or destroyed, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld threatens Syria. Nothing new! It’s the old “possessing weapons of mass destruction” and “harboring terrorists” crap. Syrians should understand that the President makes rapid decisions. He needs no evidence to convince him of the righteous course. He acts with an air of total confidence. Policy depends not on facts or analysis, but on his trusted gut feeling about good and evil. He explained to an Oklahoma City audience what distinguishes “us” from “them.”

Last August 29, he said: “See, we love – we love freedom. That’s what they didn’t understand. They hate things; we love things. They act out of hatred; we don’t seek revenge, we seek justice out of love.”

To combat evil, to find justice and love, the best of human nature, Bush of course relies on war – to obtain peace. And God, for Bush, made us the most powerful military force. So, as soon as U.S. forces were ready for action after 9/11, Bush ordered them to attack the mighty Taliban in Afghanistan. When the bombs and missiles exploded, the Afghan losses made the numbers lost in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon pale. Explosives rained on the land ruled by the Saudi-backed fundamentalists where wicked Al Qaeda had training camps.

Few of the cogniscenti saw Afghanistan as the beginning of a new U.S. imperial order. Whatever Bush said, they took it as logical “revenge.” Surely, the Republican dominated ruling elite would temper “the youngster’s” overseas behavior. But the young emperor, using terrorism as his loose metaphor for all evil, continued to pursue war in the evil region — against Iraq. Bush (43) made it clear to other governments that he cared not a Texas hoot what they think.

Wow, says Hans Blix, the former Chief UN Weapons Inspector. On April 9, Blix told El Pais in Madrid that “there is evidence that this war was planned well in advance. Sometimes this raises doubts about their attitude to the (weapons) inspections.” Was Blix naive?

Perhaps he didn’t take Bush’s threats seriously because they rang with that religious fundamentilist timbre that seemed, well, inappropriate for modern, sophisticated U.S. power. But Bush had made his intentions clear. On September 5, 2002, Bush spoke to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya and others using a Louisville, Kentucky audience as his medium: “I want to send the signal to our enemy that you have aroused a compassionate and decent and mighty nation, and we’re going to hunt you down.”

A war to bring about his deepest religious desires! “You need to tell your loved ones, the little ones in particular, that when they hear the President talking about al Qaeda, Iraq and other places, I do so because I long for peace.”

For Bush — ignorant of Orwell’s 1984 — peace meant war. “When we need to be plenty tough, we’re going to be plenty tough. And they’re [the terrorists] learning another thing about America. When we need to be compassionate and loving, we can be compassionate and loving, too.”

Most pundits and politicians apparently missed the sea change in world affairs that resulted from the 9/11 events. What many saw as a temporary shift – the revenge cycle – has turned into a long-term alteration in the geo-political order. 9/11 served as a U.S. equivalent of Hitler’s 1933 Reichstrag fire in which “fighting terrorism” became the pretext for radical new forms of control at home and abroad.

Look at the changes. In place of law, the UN, NATO and other treaties, Bush substituted naked U.S. power, which he and his minions justify either with biblical jibberish or neo-Metternichean jargon. (Prince Klemens von Metternich led Austria on its imperial path during the first half of the 19th century. Metternich stressed that heads of state must make policies including war to secure peace. He saw revolution and rebellious or non-complaint behavior as diseases and tried to suppress them everywhere.)

To wage war, Bush needed sufficient backing at home – to Hell with the rest of the world. So, he used the tried and true demonization method, insinuating that the devilish Saddam had somehow directed the 9/11 attacks. In his speeches and press conferences, he demonized a truly bad man without presenting any evidence of actual links that Saddam had to terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. These same accusatory speeches came replete with multiple references to God and peace.

The spin worked. By March 19, 2003, when U.S. forces invaded Iraq, a substantial percentage of the public had become convinced that Saddam had not only “gassed his own people” but had inflicted the 9/11 damage on “us.” Thus, Bush was right to invade.

Most of our allies – except for England, Spain and Australia – had watched with an air of disbelief the belligerent foreplay before the aggressive penetration. Bush really wouldn’t make war without Security Council backing! Then, when he made war, they protested and wrung their hands.

They had expected the civilized Colin Powell to stall the war machine. After all, important sectors of the ruling elite, including Daddy Bush (41) and his consigliere James Baker and Brent Scowcroft had evinced serious reservations about going ahead without UN support.

But the supposedly prudent Secretary of State demonstrated that his servility outweighed his caution. When the crucial debate occurred in the United Nations Security Council, the opponents of war had insufficient cojones to stand dramatically against Bush’s war of naked, unprovoked aggression. Nor did the leading Democrats – there were a few exceptions like Senator Robert Byrd (W-WV) and Congressman Dennis Kucinic (D-OH) — have the courage to warn him and the nefarious chicken hawks that planned the attack that they were about to commit war crimes.

The Bushies laughed at the wussy-like Democrats, scoffed at the weak-willed European opposition, sneered at the once-powerful Russians and commercially addicted Chinese. They occasionally patted Blair, America’s pet poodle on the head and scorned those Cassandras warned about the reaction of “the angry Arab street” and “world public opinion.”

“How many divisions do they have?” Bush might well have asked, paraphrasing Stalin’s mocking of the Pope who disapproved of his policies as his administration practiced the politics of raw power.

They took what had been peripheral issues at best – like Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda as imminent threats to U.S. security – and made them central. Simultaneously, they deftly distorted facts that the media predictably lacked the curiosity to check. But they knew they could count on the media to present memory eroding volleys of changing “Reality TV in Iraq” images.

When the ruling elite leaned on him to get UN backing before going to war, the Bushies took spinning to a new level. Saddam, they charged, had violated UN Security Council resolutions. The very organization that Bush had routinely disparaged as worthless, now took on holy status. Saddam’s sin of sins was his violation of UN resolutions.

So, repetition of charges: weapons of mass destruction, links to Al Qaeda, violation of UN resolutions and “he tried to kill Daddy” – referring to an ambiguous assassination attempt in Kuwait in 1993 – became the Administration mantra. At no time, did the President present evidence. He simply repeated the accusations. Hey, who are you going to believe, your president or the guy who gassed his own people?

Instead of telling him “go sleep it off,” the cowardly Democrats, ever fearful that someone will expose them as “weak,” wrung their hands, publicly accepted Bush’s claptrap and in October 2002 awarded him special wartime powers. (The Senate vote was 77-23.)

The Bush planners had already decided to fight this war without concern for law (a fig leaf at best) or international opinion. It surprised few people that the immense superiority of U.S. weaponry defeated a far weaker military force – especially one like Iraq’s, which had basically disarmed before the invasion. The Americans didn’t even really need the British.

The lesson: circumvent international law, the UN and world public opinion and substitute brute force and the world will grasp the essentials of the U.S. order in the 21st Century. Hail America, America waives the rules!

Of course, it helped to target a universally despised villain and fool. But Saddam didn’t use mass destruction weapons against the invading Americans and British. Perhaps he didn’t have any such lethal arms. Time will tell.

The historical record shows U.S. Administrations in the 1970s and 80s cooperating with this ogre when it suited their interests. Documents show Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam’s hand in 1983 as President Reagan’s envoy. Rummy helped facilitate Iraq’s acquisition of chemical and biological weapons and U.S. logistical help to deploy them.

Coincidentally, several administration officials have close ties to companies that will materially benefit from the war, like Vice President Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton that will make billions on the rebuilding of Iraq. In the March 17, 2003 New Yorker, Seymour Hersh offers substantial evidence to show that U.S. Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle used his inside position to make substantial fees. No reason not to do well while doing good!

These Jewish neo-cons and Christian fundamentalists have made a marriage of bellicose convenience, in which the rest of the world gets screwed. They see the world as theirs to win – unless something untoward occurs in the 2004 election or the economy continues its downward spiral.

Consequences? Bush hasn’t talked about them. He dismissed the appearance of up to 20 million people demonstrating in the streets of cities throughout the world this winter as comparable to a “focus group.”

But as Seumas Milne reports in the April 10 Guardian, the North Koreans are paying close attention to both Bush’s policies and the reaction to them. “As anti-war and anti-American demonstrations erupt throughout the world,” he writes, “North Korea’s foreign ministry dramatized one sobering lesson drawn from this four week war.”

A North Korean government official said: “The Iraqi war shows that to allow disarmament through inspections does not help avert a war, but rather sparks it.” The North Koreans concluded that to prevent attacks on nations the United States has placed in the axis of evil, requires “a tremendous military deterrent force.”

As the sounds of prayer emanate from the White House, Milne sees the chicken hawk planners of the Iraq war circling “around Syria and Iran.” They have provided “a powerful boost to nuclear proliferation.” He concludes that “anti western terror attacks seem inevitable, offset only by the likelihood of a growing international mobilization against the new messianic imperialism.”

Amen, I say, in my non-religious way. I, like tens of millions of others, will continue to resist.

SAUL LANDAU’s film IRAQ: VOICES FROM THE STREETS is distributed by Cinema Guild, 800-723-5522. Find him on the web at www.rprogreso.com He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

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