"Success in Not the Issue Here"


Q: You said you know a lot more now. Do you mean by that you know a lot more of what you don’t know?

Dayton: No, we know a lot more —

Q: If you know a lot more, you would have found these things [WMD]; is that right?

Dayton: Remember, my mission is not only WMD, but it’s all kinds of things. And we know more about what people think they saw, we know more about where people were, we know more about — again, it’s a beginning process. We’ve put a lot of pieces together on this. And so, yes, of course we know more. We’ve interviewed a lot of people. Hasn’t always been successful? Of course, hasn’t been successful in many cases, but that’s not the issue here.

Briefing on the Iraq Survey Group Friday May 30, 2003. (Briefing on the Iraq Survey Group. Participating were Stephen A. Cambone, under secretary of defense for intelligence, and Army Maj. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, director for operations, Defense Intelligence Agency.)

The war against Iraq waged here in America is part of a larger narrative, the latest chapter being the war on terror, which began in earnest after the attacks of September 11. The real story has been so obfuscated, buried beneath a myriad of lies and facts, official documents and dossiers that it has become difficult to separate the fictional narrative from the truth, especially if one is not inclined to dig beneath the surface.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines narrative as “A narrated account; a story.” As a global audience the world has been offered a narrative, a story that outlines why the United States is waging war against a poor, defenseless, and occupied nation. The narrative is really quite simple and not all that inventive given the range of power and willingness to manipulate information that the current administration has. Something more along the lines of Paul Verhoeven’s prescient film Starship Troopers (based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein) would have been more exciting and given sci-fi fans a reason to support the war. Certainly U.S. intelligence could have come up with evidence revealing the existence of brain sucking bugs inhabiting the far off deserts of Iraq, hiding in underground caves, and plotting to take over the world. Indecipherable photos could have been used to support the cause along with some intercepted noises indicating a plot to sabotage the United States. Hell, they could have just used footage from the movie. Most likely no one at the UN had seen it anyway.

That’s basically what Saddam was doing we are told. Preparing to wage war against the United States in some way. So the narrative goes. Saddam is a despot. He possesses weapons of mass destruction and he’s willing to sell them or give them away to terrorist organizations that are fundamentally opposed to his own existence. That would be kind of like the United States giving biological and chemical materiel to Iraq?

Back to the narrative. Not only does this evil tyrant possess such weapons but he has used them on his own people. This is a powerful narrative device showing that even if Saddam doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction now, he did at one time and is capable of acquiring them again. The United States has nuclear weapons and is willing to use them. This is also a powerful narrative device. But of course we would only use nuclear weapons to promote freedom and to save lives like we did when we devastated Japan, razed two of its cities, and killed hundreds of thousands of people. But that’s not really part of the narrative, unless perhaps you’re interested in revisionist history.

The final piece of the narrative, tacked on toward the end, is the liberation of Iraq. It is a key element to the whole story because without it the whole enterprise would collapse (Like that big statue of Saddam Hussein pulled down by all those Iraqi people). If it became known that the United States had no interest in the Iraqi people we would be forced to return to the less heroic elements of the narrative like weapons of mass destruction, that can’t be found, and Saddam Hussein the despot, who also can’t be found.

But liberating Iraq is proving to be more difficult than the war planners thought and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to justify a war based on lies and backed up with documents and “intelligence” that are plainly false. They will do their best to hold on to the narrative, to add new chapters, new characters, and information privy up until now only to the authors. But as each installment is defrauded the author’s credibility diminishes.

The narrative becomes tired and heavy. It no longer flows. It should have ended sooner but now there are some unexpected plot twists, an epilogue, and an appendix. Maybe even cliff notes and a couple of study guides to clarify some of the inconsistencies.

But the audience is also tired. Some are burning their books, furious that an author could so mislead them. Others are demanding that it be rewritten. And still others read on hoping that the last page reveals some unknown truth.

The coup de grace? What will it be? What piece of information, what reason for waging war will be issued next?

Whatever it is we can rest assured that, as our National Security Adviser recently stated, “we will put together this whole picture and when the whole story is told, we will know how Saddam Hussein managed to deceive the world in the length of time that he did.”

ADAM FEDERMAN can be reached at: adam@incamail.com

Adam Federman is a contributing editor at Earth Island Journal.He is the recipient of a Polk Grant for Investigative Reporting, a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism, and a Russia Fulbright Fellowship. You can find more of his work at adamfederman.com.

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